Essay / Culture

Workin’ for the Weekend

No matter your taste, Canada has given us some good music over the years. If you want to make a political statement you listen to Bruce Cockburn. Wanna rock like it’s the summer of ’69? Then there’s Bryan Adams. Riding in an elevator? Listen to Céline Dion. If you’re feeling ironic, turn to Alannis Morissette. Into skateboarding? Check out Avril Lavigne. Fist pumpin’, foot stompin’ arena rock? Nickelback. If you’re feeling blue there’s always the late Jeff Healey. Wanna hear the best three-piece group ever assembled? You’ll turn to the Canadian threesome Rush. And let’s not forget about Nelly Furtado, Gordon Lightfoot, Sarah McLachlan, the Barenaked Ladies and Raffi (yes, the kid’s album guy). But the band Loverboy (where do these names come from?) will always hold a special place in the heart of the man or woman who slugs away all week at some mindless or monotonous job just to get to the weekend.

“Workin’ for the Weekend” was released way back in 1981 and was, as they say, a “chart-topper.” Though the song leaves a lot to be desired (musically and otherwise), it was the first four lines of the chorus that got the bored bank teller excited:

Everybody’s working for the weekend

Everybody wants a little romance

Everybody’s goin’ off the deep end

Everybody needs a second chance

Now, not much has changed in 30 years – there are still plenty of people working for the weekend, waiting for those two days of (hopefully) uninterrupted bliss, perhaps involving some romance and a return to sanity. Recently, however, I discovered that this is not only true of the over-worked or disgruntled but also the reality for university students. The office hour conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, what are you here to talk about?

Student: My paper.

Me: What are you thinking about writing on?

Student: Shakespeare’s Richard II.

Me: What exactly do you see there that you want to write about?

Student: Probably something to do with the divine right of kings and whether it was right for Richard II to give up his kingship to Henry IV.

Me: Do you have a thesis and/or textual points to look at?

Student: No, but I am hoping to really get that hammered out this weekend.

It was the “this weekend” line that caught my attention. Even busy university students live for the weekends, with the expectation that they will get a lot done. My guess is that they don’t get as much done as they hoped but they look for and long for it anyway. Now, I love my job but I like the weekends too. A chance to sleep in, do some mindless yard work, play with the kids, eat out, watch football, etc. But it was only in that office hour that I realized how biblical the concept is of “workin’ for the weekend.”

The concept of keeping a Sabbath has really taken off these days. Even Biola offers students chapel credit for a day of Sabbath-keeping (which likely involves a lot of sleep for university students). The practice is often listed together with other spiritual disciplines (such as prayer and fasting) and is nicely explained by Dorothy Bass in an article entitled “Keeping Sabbath: Reviving a Christian Practice.” There are even Sabbath-keeping denominations and churches! The point, though, is this: given that the general tendency today (at least in North America) is to overwork, it seems logical to emphasize the keeping of a Sabbath. Our frenzied, workaholic tendencies may be culturally acceptable, but that doesn’t make them right. Our product-driven, performance-based economy doesn’t make it easy to take a Sabbath, but we must.

Without making too much fuss, let me make one suggestion why everyone should keep a Sabbath: love of God and love of neighbor. Real love manifests itself in relationships and this is nowhere more true than in God himself as Trinity. In the thought of orthodox theologians the Father eternally begets the Son, resulting in a relationship between the Father and the Son that is love itself. But as Thomas Aquinas, for example, states, that very love has by necessity always existed since the Father and the Son are eternal. Therefore, this love between the Father and the Son must be the eternal Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Thus, God is Love (1 John 4:8). Just as God is a unity of relations between three persons, so we too should strive to be in relationship with God and others. We are made for relationships (i.e., in the image of God) and this can best be achieved when we slow down enough to notice God and others and to cultivate proper, healthy relationships. A man and a woman do not get to know one another well enough to marry by running next to each other in a marathon. Instead they go on dates, likely characterized by long conversations and intimate sharing. Most people do not court or date “on the run” so why would they treat their relationship to God in this manner?

Also, how many of us really know our neighbors? Depending on how you count, I have five immediate houses of neighbors and, to be honest, I only know two of them. Oh sure, I’ve driven by, walked by or biked by other neighbors, offering the requisite “Hey, how are you?” But I don’t really know them. If I don’t know my immediate neighbors, how can I really every know the ones further down the street or my “neighbors” two streets over and beyond? Though I am not a particularly social person (I’m most at home with friends and family), that’s not my main reason for not being more neighborly. In my case, I’m simply too busy to stop and chat. As I walk home from a long day at the office and class, the last thing I want to do is stop and chat. I want to get home, take my shoes off, eat dinner and simply be left alone. Who has time to stop and chat, much less take a day of rest where I could intentionally be neighborly? That sounds hard and uncomfortable. Staying busy keeps me protected from all that nicety and community-building.

Sabbathing, on the other hand, would force me to slow down and pay better attention to God and my neighbor and, just perhaps, to love them better and more rightly. If I don’t take an intentional Sabbath then I’m like the student hoping to cram as much in on the weekend as I do every other day of the week; and that isn’t healthy. As Bass concludes, “Rest and worship. One day a week—not much, in a sense, but a good beginning. One day to resist the tyranny of too much or too little work and to celebrate with God and others, remembering thereby who we really are and what is really important. One day that, week after week, anchors a way of life that makes a difference every day.” So, let me truly work for the weekend! May I truly be a person who devotes some time each week to taking a Sabbath for the purpose of getting to know God and my neighbor—resulting, I’m sure, in better relationships with both.

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