Monday, September 29, 2008

Day of Rest

This past January, on the Sunday after the first week of classes of the spring semester, Craig Miller, then-resident assistant of Traber 5, led a floor fellowship meeting. I remember us going around the room, mentioning highlights from our winter breaks, and meeting two new residents. Craig then gave us a challenge for the semester: observe the Sabbath by refraining from doing homework on Sundays.

As a music major, a substantial portion of my homework are my practice hours. Since beginning my studies at the Wheaton Conservatory, I have always had four different sets of practicing assignments: trombone, piano, aural skills, and whichever instrument I had in instrumental techniques courses. (I am really looking forward to finishing piano this December and not taking a section of instrumental techniques in the spring, leaving me with just trombone and aural skills for eight glorious months from Christmas until next August.) It is most practical for me to do my practical homework, if you will, in the two buildings that house the Conservatory. At Wheaton College, all the academic buildings are closed on Sundays, so I had already been refraining from that particular part of my homework on the Sabbath when Craig gave this challenge.

Upon returning to my room after floor fellowship, I thought about what completely taking this challenge would mean. On the surface, it simply meant that I would not do written homework on Sundays, either. But beyond that, it would mean a little extra discipline to get all my weekend homework done by the end of the day on Saturday. I decided to go for it. (Thankfully, that weekend included Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, so I had the benefit of a three-day weekend for my first attempt.)

I am proud to say that I have virtually succeeded in not doing any homework on Sundays since. I have also extended my observance of the Sabbath to include any work for my stage manager’s duties (although I would never have events to work on Sundays, I do have clerical duties to do). Sometimes it has been necessary to break the Sabbath, generally when I have collaborative projects and schedule constraints of other group members necessitates meeting on Sunday, but on the whole, every Sunday has been a day off for me. In short, because Wheaton College observes the Sabbath both as an educational institution and as an employer, I observe the Sabbath both as a student and as an employee.

That does not mean that I sit around all day watching movies (although I do like to check out DVD collections of The West Wing from the library to watch on weekends). I attend church in the morning, eat brunch in the dining hall, and then spend the afternoon refreshing myself for the week ahead. I usually manage to get a nap in after brunch, and then spend the rest of the day relaxing, sometimes with friends and sometimes just by myself. I might read for personal pleasure, listen to music, or write blog entries. For dinner, I either get a meal at the Stupe Grill or go out with friends. One thing I always like to do on Sunday evenings, generally not too long before turning in for the night, is go for a walk along the campus perimeter. During the week, I certainly get to many different places on Wheaton’s campus, but I am usually more concerned with where I am going than the actual journey. Those Sunday evening walks give me a chance to appreciate the stateliness of the campus (I particularly enjoy walking along College Avenue, especially when the Christmas wreath is hung on Blanchard tower and some of the evergreens on Blanchard lawn are wrapped with Christmas lights).

I will be honest and say that my determination to not work on Sundays has often led to moderately stressful Saturdays, particularly if I am working at or performing in a concert on Saturday night (or going to Chicago, etc.). But I have been blessed with good time management skills, so I am usually able to get everything done without too much trouble.

Wheaton College is a very active institution. The reputation of Fischer Hall as “the dorm that never sleeps” might well be applied to the whole school. I am not certain that this is the best inclination. Hard work is very noble, and I am sure that it pleases the Lord when we spend our time in our studies and jobs. But we would do well to remember that God Himself rested at the end of the creation week, and that He commanded the fledgling nation of Israel to observe the Sabbath. Even construction of the Tabernacle halted on the Sabbath (Exodus 35).

If you are a Wheaton student (or anyone, really) reading this, I challenge you to take what one might call the Sabbath Challenge. Refrain from anything related to your studies or job on Sunday, and instead focus on worshipping, relaxing, and preparing yourself for the week ahead. Try it for at least a month. For more ambitious types, go the whole semester.

This is Rubio, over and out.

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