In our goal of supporting early career Christian academics, we like to crowdsource short tips on important ways of thriving as we follow Christ in the university. This fall, we’ve launched a new series of tips on growing spiritually in academia. Physics researcher Bob Kaita brings us a meditation on Sabbath today, adapted from a brief encouragement he shared with the Princeton InterVarsity Graduate Christian group at the beginning of the semester. We hope it will encourage you whether you read it now as we approach Thanksgiving break, or in future as a semester kicks off.
In sharing thoughts on prospering in your life as an academic, I’m not going to tell you to work hard. You wouldn’t be reading this if you needed reminding!
Rather, I want to focus on the idea of Sabbath. You’re all familiar with the verses where it’s described. According to Exodus 20:8, we are to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” We are also to keep in mind the words of Christ as recorded in Mark 2:27, which were that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
What does this mean in a practical sense? Many of you have heard of Stephen Covey and his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.1 His principle of “thinking win-win” has become a cliché. I’d like to bring up his seventh habit, which he illustrates with the following parable. A woodcutter was spending a lot of time trying to cut a piece of wood with a dull saw. When asked why he didn’t stop and sharpen it, he replied that he didn’t have time!
To quote Covey, “We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” In his words, “Seek continuous improvement and renewal professionally and personally. Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.”2
For spiritual self-renewal, Covey includes meditation, music, art, prayer, and service. These are all elements of Sabbath worship, which like all important “habits,” is best developed before you’re too busy to start. As the semester continues, and as you start the next one in the spring, remember Sabbath renewal so you can get to work!
1Steven R. Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,” New York: Free Press (1989).
Bob Kaita, recently retired from the Plasma Physics Laboratory and the Graduate Program of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. Bob investigated techniques for heating plasmas to high temperatures, and developed instrumentation for measuring them. He also explored materials that could be used in future fusion reactors. His work is described in nearly four hundred and fifty papers. Bob is a fellow of the American Physics Society, and a recipient of the Kaul Prize for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research and Technology Development. He has supervised the research of many high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, including serving as the thesis advisor to fourteen Princeton doctoral students. Bob is a fellow and past president of the American Scientific Affiliation, and has served as the faculty advisor for the Princeton Graduate Christian Fellowship.