The concept of taking a Sabbath was recently introduced in a study I have been doing with my church small group. I have heard about Sabbath and know the Bible talks about it but hadn’t really considered trying to implement a weekly day of rest into my life until recently.
When I previously thought about Sabbath, I imagined lying around the house all afternoon long after church. It seemed pretty boring, a poor use of my time, and not a very helpful way to connect with God. It also did not seem particularly practical or possible in our busy lives.
Through the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day and accompanying video series, more light was shone on the purpose of Sabbath and how to practice it (what it might look like in an actual, modern-day life). The author reminded us that Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, demonstrating how important it is. The purpose of Sabbath, he said, is to delight in God – to spend time with him in worship and prayer, and to enjoy the things he has given us. I appreciated hearing that we all experience God in different ways so our Sabbath practices might look different from others.
Some people experience God when they are in nature, so perhaps a hike might be part of a Sabbath practice. Others feel closer to God when they learn new things about faith, so reading a book on faith or prayer might be relevant. Some sense God’s presence when they are creative and using their gifts so that could be part of their Sabbath. If the goal is delighting in God, then the method will look different but the results should be similar – feeling refreshed, peaceful, joy-filled.
As a perfectionist, I can struggle with wanting to do things perfectly and, thus, potentially not do them at all if perfection does not seem possible. In my relationship with God, this can manifest itself as legalism, but Jesus reminds me of his grace and that is where I need to rest.
I have decided to start imperfectly and keep trying. For me, a true Sabbath means not being productive, setting down my to-do list and just enjoying the day with my family. Being aware of my tendency toward legalism, I am trying not to set rules in stone.
I prepare for Sabbath by running errands on Saturday to remove the potential guilt of resting on Sunday. Grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning – all of these things can be done on Saturday. On Sunday, we have church and then, ideally, an afternoon and evening as a family. Naps are encouraged, reading or tv is leisurely, time outside if the weather permits, talking to family or hanging out with friends, playing games. Cooking is usually involved because we like to eat but we already have a menu so the planning and prep have been done ahead of time – it’s just the implementation which is usually not stressful.
I have only been attempting purposeful Sabbaths for a few weeks so I don’t know how it will look or change long-term. Thus far, nothing catastrophic has happened from setting down my to-do list. I believe God wants us to be reminded that the world will continue on without our efforts. It’s an opportunity to remember that the fate of the world does not rest on us so we can relax and enjoy.
I like knowing that I have a day specifically for leisure. It is so nice not having a weekend crammed full of activities. Will every week be relaxing, calm, and refreshing? Probably not. Sometimes even doing fun things like painting canvases with my daughter may be less refreshing than I hope but it is still a worthwhile activity. It’s trial and error and grace. Always grace.
Do you have a Sabbath practice? What does yours look like? If you don’t, what prevents you from trying it?