Beliefnet
Beliefnet blogger Gayle Trotter interviews Dr. Matthew Sleeth, author of the book 24/6: a Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life. Check out Gayle’s blog The Road You Are On The Road You Are On.

GT: The book advocates the idea of a Sabbath. Could you tell me what a Sabbath is?

MS: A Sabbath, as I define it, is a day once week set aside to rest and to renew one’s soul, and to copy the example of God in taking a day to enjoy all that we have.

GT: You write, “Restraint is not doing everything that one has the power to do.” Why is this a good thing?

MS: First of all we see that restraint is a quality of God. We use God as the definition of what is right and good. We are told the maker of the universe shows restraint and does again and again throughout the Bible. In the person of Christ, we see great restraint. We understand that is a godly quality.

One of the jobs of a follower of Christ as I see it is to try to pick up as many qualities of Christ as we can, restraint being one of those. Also I think that our society in general could use a little bit more restraint. We are in an age where we have sayings like “Just Do It,” and “We deserve a break today,” and all that sort of thing. Restraint naturally brings us to contemplate bigger things, i.e., God and people other than ourselves. That is why it is a great quality.

GT: What is the ultimate purpose of work in your eyes?

MS: Work is something that the Creator does. We have a drive to create, and work, and sustain ourselves. But, ultimately, our work is not the meaning of our lives. Our faith, and our family, and our relationship with the Lord are what should define us.

GT: Why should we jump off the hamster wheel once a week?

MS: It is a very personal reason why I share with folks, having been somebody that was pretty driven. I remember the first time a friend of my wife turned and looked at me. She said, “I couldn't be married to a workaholic like you are.” It was one of those, “Who is the workaholic?” moments. I realized that in fact I was working three jobs at the time.

It is very easy to get into that and have that define you. Resting one day a week not only becomes this lovely time, but frankly I could not live without it. I could not fathom life now without that rhythm of work and rest. To the rest, work gives more meaning, and the work tires you so you need to rest. Jumping off of that hamster wheel, we get to think about the big questions. I think we also get a heart that is more appreciative. The satisfied person is not the person who has everything they want. It is the person who wants less. Simply pausing from commerce gives us a chance to appreciate what we have.

GT: Here is the question I have been dying to ask you after finishing your book. When your child is invited to a birthday party on a Sunday morning, or has soccer practice scheduled for a Sunday afternoon, how would you recommend responding to the birthday party invitation or the coach? How should you explain your decision to your child? MS: Both my son and daughter began to practice a stop day with us ten years or so ago. They were both in junior high/high school at that age. There were many pressures on them for activities and for school. They went to an extraordinarily competitive high school. There were always Monday deadlines for academics and for tests. They chose to get their work done ahead of time and to refrain from those activities one day a week. It was an experiment. How was that going to turn out? The experiment is done. My son graduated valedictorian of his high school, valedictorian of college, and first in his medical school class, keeping a Sabbath the whole way through.

GT: Wow.

MS: My daughter did not graduate from high school. She got into college early and graduated with two degrees, and valedictorian at age 19 from college. Their experience is that you can do this. What happens is that you begin to stand for something. It builds character. Most of us do not know what is coming down the pike. We do not know what technologies will be here in six months less, much less six years. But my children know that one day a week, they are going to stop, period. They began to stand for things. They probably lost some friends as a result of that. But they gained some really great friends.

The birthday party is a little harder because the birthday is a celebration. I am not sure I put a birthday in the same category as soccer, or academics, or working a job for a high schooler. I think I would have some flexibility for a birthday party. Also, it depends on whether or not they serve some ice cream after the cake.

GT: You like ice cream!

MS: It is not a set of rules. I am not asking people to become rigid. One of the problems when Christ came along is that there were people who were praying, but they were not partying on the Sabbath. They had lots of piety, but they did not have the kind of inherent joy that was meant to be derived out of the day. I am afraid I would probably vote thumbs up on the birthday party.

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