Sabbath. Just saying the word causes my spirit to ache in joyful anticipation.
It wasn’t always that way. I used to hear and read the word Sabbath, and it was a word that eluded me. Sabbath – that’s for Old Testament Hebrews, right? But more and more I found myself chewing on the word, tasting the idea of what a Sabbath could be for modern times, for myself and for my family. Right as I was pondering this, I stumbled across a book, Spiritual Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, and saw she had a chapter titled “Sabbath.” I skipped the rest of the book, going instead right to that chapter, and saw that she described what I knew I wanted – nay, needed – in my life:
“During the week, your whole self will strain toward the Sabbath with thoughts like ‘I know I can make it because the Sabbath is coming.’ You will emerge from Sabbath with renewed energy and hope, thinking ‘I can face my life now because I have rested.’”
“That!” I thought, “I need that!” But how could we? 24 hours without work every week?We have two small children, my husband is the director of a huge non-profit, and we have a full ministry life. Sabbath, a delicious sounding gift of rest, sounds like it belongs to someone with far more time on their hands and less responsibilities… right? But the more I voiced my doubt, the more my husband and I both felt the Spirit say “come.” Thus, we prayerfully (and eagerly) decided to give Sabbath rest a try. That was 11 months ago; for the past 52 weeks, we have incorporated 52 Sabbaths, and have no intention of changing in the weeks ahead!
For us, Sabbath is on Thursdays. As we assessed our lives, we found Thursdays were the day we were least likely to have interruptions and be able to protect a 24-hour window. Wednesday evening, after our two little ones (ages 3 and 1) are in bed, my husband and I clean up our house, wrap up our work, wash all the piled up dishes, and when the house and emails are in decent order, we come together and assess what is weighing us down or causing us worry or stress, then we lay those things down at the feet of Jesus. We prayerfully close the week and open up Shabbat as we end the night.
Thursday morning, my 3-year-old daughter’s voice always loudly wakes us: “Mommy! Daddy! It’s SABBATH!” Even our little ones have come to love this day! And thus begins our day of rest as a family.
We have three rules for ourselves:
1) No work (no dishes or laundry or cleaning up toys – crazy, I know!).
2) No technology (because it’s meant to distract).
3) No anxiety or complaining (and believe me, I’m an anxious momma).
Apart from those rules, which we’ve devised as a means to keep our hearts centered on Christ and on rest, the remainder of the day is unstructured. The pace is slow. We give ourselves permission to get down on the floor and play with our kids, we cook and eat our favorite (easy to toss together) foods, we listen to podcasts, we read, we (I promise, even with two littles) nap! We rest. And it is good, Friends. It is so good!
Come Friday, the house is a disaster, the inbox is piled up, but our hearts are ready. Our marriage feels more closely unified and intimate, our kids feel poured into, and our walk with the Father has grown immensely. Week after week, our hearts are re-focused on Him as the troubles of the day confront us anew.
As our Lord of the Sabbath himself so eloquently put it: “The Sabbath was made for man.”
I urge every believer in Christ to give this a try, especially those who think they don’t have the time! Let the Lord of Lords and King of Kings take over your schedule, carry your worry, and give you the rest your hearts long for, this week and the next!
What do you think of when you hear “Sabbath?” What are ways you could try and incorporate one into your schedule this week? What do you imagine that could look like for you as the Spirit invites you into His rest?