The Gift of Sabbath

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? 

8 Comments

  1. Alice October 17, 2018

    This was so encouraging to read! I’ve been wanting a just a half-day retreat (much less a full-day Sabbath) since my baby was born a few months ago, but even on days I don’t do ministry work, it feels like a full-time job just feeding and entertaining the little – and I don’t get the headspace I need to focus on God. It’s nice to hear you’ve been able to pull it off (albeit with slightly older littles). I’m open to hearing anyone else’s suggestions.

    1. Claire Nguyen* October 18, 2018

      I’m so glad it was encouraging for you! And you are RIGHT – it IS a full-time job taking care of babies! When we started, my youngest was only a few months old (and just starting to experiment with solids, so was still breastfeeding a ton). I think what Sabbath did for us, even at that age, was give me space to *enjoy* it and not feel like I had to be doing something else. For those 24 hours, everything just feels more slow and, consequently, holy. Getting down and playing with my kids is less of a chore and more of a delight because I don’t need to look at the clock and think about what I “should” be doing instead. 🙂 Anyways, I hope you find a rhythm that works for you, whatever that looks like!

  2. Elizabeth October 17, 2018

    Lately what we have been trying to do is prepare ourselves and our home on Saturday, to make Sundays more restful. Church is good, but tiring (my husband helps run the services, and it is far away, and a long day). So many times I am tired from the week on Saturday, and I don’t pay attention to getting laundry or dishes or grocery shopping done. But when we do that little bit of extra work on Saturday (and it’s not too hard, I just have to remind myself to actually do it), the house is in better, more restful state for us to really Sabbath well on Sunday (after church services are done!). It makes Sundays so much better, I just have to remember to do the work on Saturday even when I don’t feel like it!

    1. Claire Nguyen* October 18, 2018

      Yes! We agree – church days are not restful for us, either! So glad you found what works for you!

  3. Michele October 17, 2018

    I have been pretty regular at keeping a sabbath for several years and agree with you that it’s a very life-giving routine! I heard someone say once that it’s about trust… I will not it all done because I kept going, but because I kept my connection with Him. Sabbath is saying I need Him more than I need to look or feel productive!

    1. Claire Nguyen* October 18, 2018

      Ohhh so wonderful! I can’t wait to say “I’ve been keeping it for several years”! 🙂 And that is well said – it IS about trust, and remembering Who is in charge of our schedules and our to-do lists!

  4. Jeffery October 18, 2018

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I love that both you and your husband have embraced the gift of sabbath. By the way the book by Ruth Haley Barton is titled Sacred Rhythms

  5. Mariah October 18, 2018

    This is the best ❤️ I need to revisit this idea with Gabe. It can be tricky right now when life seems a little inconsistent at times but I think we could find a way to make this work and intentionally spend the time together. I love what you said about about letting the Lord take over your schedule and worry. I’ll keep you posted friend 😘

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