Today is Friday, Normally, Friday is also relief-day. I wait for Fridays like a schoolchild waits for the Christmas holidays, bubbly and a bit jittery, nicer to everyone and enthusiastically distracted from my work. I am relieved that tomorrow I can rest. Despite the twists and turns my Christian path has taken me on, Sabbath has always been a constant. I have never revised for an exam, or finished a piece of coursework, or gone to a birthday party, or found myself working in the basic human conception of it, till August this year, when I started working as doctor. And so today is strange for me. I find myself anticipating a state of unrest – tomorrow I will be working in a busy Accident and Emergency department, and how do I find the rest that I am commanded to find?
Sabbath is something normally associated with the Jews. You might picture synagogues with David’s star signalling from the top, or Orthodox women in long skirts clutched by little boys with their heads covered in little yarmulkes, but the commandment takes us back to before there was ever a Jewish people. It is the only commandment that tells us to remember. It then goes on to tell us why we should remember it.
This week, my Facebook timeline had the recurring story of Pope Francis’s comments on evolution and the Big Bang. I haven’t actually read the articles properly, but from what I skimmed it was something along the lines of evolution and the big bang theory not being incompatible with a belief in God. And I agree with him. I do think the Big Bang theory and a belief in God are possible – God could have caused the Big Bang. I respect those who choose to believe that. But a belief in the Big bang theory is not compatible with the God of the fourth commandment. We are commanded to rest in order to remember. We are commanded to remember God, not as a vague spiritual life force, or something inside each of us we can access in times of need, not as Mother Earth or the universe itself, but as Creator of the universe. In 2014 it is unpopular and it is backwards and it is ridiculed. And it is why God told us to remember it.
Some read the creation story as symbolic, and I like that. There is a lot of symbolism in God taking dirt and making man. There is something very beautiful about God speaking things into existence – skies, and seas, and galaxies, but there is something even more poignant about the image of an infinite, supernatural being scooping into dirt to make a human. It seems fantastical and naïve and precious all at the same time. I think God did that on purpose. He could have spoken Adam. He could have thought of humanity and instantly populated the globe with families and nations and peoples. But the creation story tells of Jehovah God who comes into the mud to make one individual, and then breathes life into that individual. That is Sabbath. That is rest.
It is God taking time out each week to re-breathe into you. It is remembering that if he can put his hand into dirt and make life, he can put his hand into the muck of your situation and make something meaningful out of it. It is remembering the intensely personal relationship God has with humanity -that there is a universe that is vast and full of wonder, that there is you, small and from the earth, but God knows you. It is taking time out to think about the dirt in your life that you hide and are scared of and that nobody knows about. Apart from you. Apart from the God who likes making things out of dirt.
So tomorrow as I work on the wards, I am remembering God in the Hebrew name, Jehovah Rapha – God who heals. I am resting in the remembrance of the ‘into the dirt God’, who heals and recreates. Who asked the disabled man at the side of the pool on the Sabbath, “wilt thou be made whole?”. And I am saying yes with him.