Finding the middle place in the dim room between round tables draped in white, I push high heels into the carpet under a ceiling of twinkle lights and speak to women seated around china tea cups and glass plates of cookies. They’ve asked me to tell them about the Sabbath Society.
I share about my weekly email sent to a group of 200 Sabbath-keepers who observe rest as a routine, instead of something that suits convenience. How disciplines are easier in the embrace of community – dieting, Bible reading, exercise – when accomplished with accountability.
The weekly encouragement is proving life changing for many, transformational for relationships and physically healing in some instances.
My eyes shift to the pastor’s wife leaning over her empty cup balanced between both hands, mouth slightly open. A handful of volunteers sit nearby. Pausing, I know what they’re blank stares are saying. I’ve heard the question echo among ministry leaders in many cities.
How do you do it?
Rest is elusive. The desire is present but those in the trenches don’t know how to Sabbath when Sunday responsibilities ooze over the sides of a full agenda and drip into Monday.
After twenty-five years in full-time ministry while raising two kids who are now teenagers, I tell them that the goal is not perfection but steps toward stillness and internal quieting for intimate reunion. Because God cares more about who we are than what we do.
Here are six ways to approach Sabbath for those who find rest a luxury or a weighty commandment shackled with hoops of guilt.
1) Create White Space: Carve out a time period for rest that becomes a weekly routine. For example: Dedicate the first three hours of your day off to rest, reflect and abide in God’s presence before taking a shower or cleaning up breakfast dishes. I have a hunch those three hours will stretch once you experience the benefits of peace.
2) Prepare: The key to successful rest periods is preparation. Walk toward Sabbath instead of away from it. Make meal plans, grocery trips and run errands ahead of time and find yourself anticipating joy in that 24-hour period the remainder of the week.
3) Take an Artist’s Date: In the Right to Write, Julia Cameron encourages a weekly artist’s date to fuel inspiration on the page for writers. The practice offers the same result for ministry leaders. Take a day trip somewhere new, stop by an art gallery on a daily commute, visit a state park with a camera or peruse a local farmers market for cultivating restoration and hope. Taking a break from regular routines, whether walking a different path or driving a new route, widens perspective and inspires creativity, circumventing ministry ruts we are apt to fall into.
4) Turn off the Noise: Keep your phone and laptop turned off for 24 hours to eliminate distraction. Creating boundaries with those in your spheres of influence provides an atmosphere of healthy respect that often becomes contagious. In the early years of ministry, before cell phones were a thing, we didn’t respond to phone calls or impromptu visits on days off and our people honored the boundary with deep respect. When the word emergency is clearly defined by you and your dependents, practicing this discipline becomes easier.
5) Change it Up: If you enjoy reading, take a break from self-help or ministry topics and read a novel or fiction book. If you normally take notes for future sermons, talks, or blog posts on your computer, jot down your thoughts in a journal instead. The discovery of what pours out might surprise you when the paragraphs aren’t attached to productivity.
6) Celebrate: Sabbath is about celebrating the goodness of our Creator. Stand back like an artist looking at his masterpiece from a distance and you’ll notice the gradations of color and vibrancy in life missed in busyness. Laugh, play, watch a movie on a wall of your house and give yourself permission for feasting. Enjoy food and drink that you normally don’t allow yourself the other six days of the week.
God created the Sabbath as a day set apart so make it different. Perhaps he uses more words to describe the fourth commandment for a reason. He knows how hard surrender is for us. When we take our hands off work and trust God with the outcomes, He honors the sacrifice like the tithe.
The way of peace in His presence surpasses accomplishment. That is the gift in Sabbath.
Is it hard for you to surrender and rest? Which one of these six suggestions strikes a chord in you?