Serious about the Sabbath
I am so intrigued, yet so baffled, by this whole concept of the Sabbath: an entire day, every single week, whereby God commands (!) His people to do absolutely nothing. I mean, nothing. Just–WOW!
And God wasn’t merely offering a Sabbath suggestion, either. If the Israelites disobeyed this commandment to rest, they were put to death. (Ex 31:14) Can you imagine how different our fast-paced society would be if we all did this?
Can you imagine what December would look like if we all did this?
That’s why I’m Serious about my Sabbath.
Not because I fear the wrath of God. Not because I think I’m still required to live according to Old Testament Law. But, because I think there are some Old Testament laws that, though they are not punishable by death, just make good sense.
“Blessed is the one who does this—the person who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:2)
As a stay-at-home mom, my work never really ends. I mean, I don’t ever clock out or drive away from my office. One day of work bleeds right into the next—even holidays and vacations feel like work with all the cooking and cleaning (can I hear an “amen” from everyone who hosted Thanksgiving this year?) Therefore, it becomes all the more vital for me to become intentional about my rest. It recharges and refreshes me–physically, emotionally and spiritually–like nothing else does.
Observing the Sabbath is counter-cultural, even in my own home. That is why I’ve established a few Sabbath guidelines to make it work for me. Not to be legalistic, but to help me create a true atmosphere of rest. And there just happen to be seven of them. Because seven is the biblical number of completion…and this list is so very spiritual.
My Sabbath Guidelines
1. Make up my mind: I have to decide ahead of time that I’m taking a Sabbath. Otherwise, it just won’t happen.
2. Pick a day: Generally, Christians think “Sabbath = Sunday.” Which is odd, because the Jews observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I Googled “Sabbath” to read up on the Saturday vs. Sunday thing. Oh GIIIRRRRLLLLL, I got a headache, just sifting through the arguing and finger pointing about the calendars and the religious edicts and the blah blah blah…. No thank you.
Maybe God does care about the day, I honestly don’t know. (if you are a theologian-type person and want to tell us about it in the comments, go for it). But here is what I do know: Sundays around here are a lot of work and don’t feel at all like a day of rest. Getting three kids up and ready for church is…um…labor-intensive. A few Sundays out of the month, I have some sort of ministry responsibility at church. Mostly fun, but work, still. Our kids always have homework on the weekends (this really frustrates me, but that’s a post for another day), and we usually save it until Sunday. And finally, Sunday evening is when I usually make out my meal plan and to-do list for the upcoming week, sort laundry for Monday morning and get back packs and school uniforms organized. All that is WORK.
Honestly, Saturdays work better for me—not because I’m trying to be historically accurate or legalistic, but because I’m trying to be practical and restful. Before my kids were in school, Thursdays actually worked better for me. Put that in your Pharisaical pipe and smoke it.
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Col 2: 15-17)
3. Define it: If this is going to be my day of rest, then I need to define what is restful to me. I remember reading an article written by another mom that said, “absolutely no shopping on the Sabbath—no stores, no malls, nothing.” For her, shopping felt like materialism, which did not feel restful or Sabbathy (I’ve just made “Sabbath” an adjective) to her. I, however, LOVE meandering through the malls on a Saturday afternoon with my girls. That’s not work–that’s awesome.
“Then he [Jesus}said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'” (Mark 2:27)
On the other hand, I love to exercise on the Sabbath. To most people, that’s pure torture. To me, though, a big, long workout is simply luxurious—since the rest of the week, I’m trying to squeeze my workouts in between loads of laundry and carpool.
Bottom line: Sabbath rest means different things to different people. That’s why I’ve designed my very own Sabbath guidelines. These are not intended to bind me to some list of rules, but rather to help me define what is restful to me and what is not.
a. NO COOKING (yes, I’m shouting here)
b. NO LAUNDRY (and here)
c. NO HOUSE CLEANING (and here)
d. NO GROCERY SHOPPING (and here)
e. Wake up without an alarm.
f. Have a long time of Bible reading while I slowly drink a pot of coffee. Yes, a pot.
g. Partake in an extra long exercise time (more than an hour), which usually involves a walk/run outdoors.
h. Do something recreational with the kids.
i. Maybe have a date night with Jon (usually every other week).
j. Sometimes take a nap.
k. Read good books. Read the paper. Read a magazine.
4. Tell my family: Since my work is my home and family, it’s important that I let my family know when I’m taking the day off. They pretty much know that Saturday is my Sabbath, but in case they forget, I’ve been known to respond to certain work-related requests with, “Nope, not today…It’s my Sabbath.”
5. Prepare: I think taking the time to prepare for my Sabbath has been the biggest key to my Sabbath success.
“He said to them, ‘This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning…Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days.’” (Ex 16:23 & 29)
Do you know what the Israelites called the day before the Sabbath? The Day of Preparation. Brilliant, no?
I was so excited when I discovered the Day of Preparation in Scripture. Prior to seeing that, I had a big problem with taking the day off. It felt like punishment because of all the work I had to do the NEXT day—It felt like my work multiplied when I neglected it, even for one day. It was enough to reason myself out of taking a Sabbath altogether.
But then I discovered the beauty of preparation. Now, if I am going to have a day of no cooking, then I make sure I’ve prepared enough food for my family of five or arranged for us to eat out. If I am going to skip a laundry day, then I do an extra load or two on Friday. It also helps to have the house picked up and basically clean, since I have a horrible time relaxing in a messy house. I know I’m a freak this way, but I gotta do what I gotta do.
6. Protect the calendar: On Saturdays, I try to make sure I’m not running kids all over the city for birthday parties, sleep-overs and sporting events. The word “No” is a big part of preparing for my Sabbath. I never said Sabbath-keeping would make you popular. By the way, sometimes protecting Saturday is just more trouble than it’s worth. If that happens, I make sure I select another day during the week where I can rest.
7. Don’t force the Sabbath on everyone: I think it’s really important for everyone to rest, and I would be delighted if we all did it on the same day. But that doesn’t always work in my family. Turns out, my husband doesn’t really want to observe a full day of rest every single week. Sometimes Saturdays are the only days he can get house projects completed or lawn work done—and he’s totally okay with that. So, I’m learning to be okay with it, too. I love when we all Sabbath together (I have just made “Sabbath” a verb), but it’s not always practical or possible. Plus, no one likes when I go all legalistic on people. That’s not restful for anyone.
Q4U: What do you think about observing the Sabbath? Do you practice this? What day? What do you do/refrain from? Let’s talk Sabbath!
21 Days of Clarity, Day 4: Rest
God Speaks Through the Storm Part 6: Rest and Depression
Freedom to Hear God, Part 9: My Busy-ness is None of Your Busy-ness
i try not to do "work" on Sunday – by that I mean housework. but its still a busy day full of church and family obligations. i like your "rules" but i'm not sure i could adopt them. hmmm…
I am intentional about not planning any activities other than church on Sundays. I don't have children to get ready for church though. I work full time Monday through Friday so my only real choices are Saturday or Sunday. Saturdays are the days I do laundry, grocery shop, etc.
After reading your post, I think I need to be a little more intentional about my rest.
I remember reading, ages ago, something that Elizabeth Elliot wrote. She grew up in the era where Sabbath was no fun for kids. Her parents made Sabbath special. This stuck out to me that they had iced tea only on the Sabbath and it was something the whole family looked forward too.
I also loved the ideas on Sabbath from the book "No Ordinary Home." (sorry I can't remember the author.)
As a single gal (not by choice, may I add!), it's easy for me to do Sabbath on Sundays. On the Sabbath, I do go to church and plan an afternoon nap and ensure no shopping on that day as well. That's how I distinguish Sabbath from any other day of the week.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts… insightful as usual!
I've tried to have a day of rest but it doesn't seem to ever pan out for the WHOLE day. It's mostly me…I have a hard time letting go what I see that needs to be done. I have been able to take a few hours here and there and that really seems to help. What do you do if the rest of the family has obligations? (driving kids, bday parties, etc?)
I think you have a great idea going – would love to hear more!
Mindy: I try hard to protect Saturdays. I say "no" a lot. But if we do have Saturday obligations, my husband doesn't mind driving kids (because he doesn't get to see them as much as I do and knows I do 90% of the driving during the week).
We also will take the opportunity to go do something recreational with the remaining kids while one kid is at a party–go out to eat, or go to a park or something.
A lot of times my husband will take all 3 kids and let me stay home alone. Which is such a luxury to me. He likes to work out at the Y, so he will often take them to do that…they can play, he works out and I stay home and chill…or go out alone and shop or browse a book store or something.
Some Saturdays just don't work. This coming Saturday is a great example. We have a mother/daughter Christmas cookie exchange in the morning, a basketball game for my son (husband is coach) and then a Christmas party at night. I will most likely try to block out Sunday for "nothing-ness." While all those things are "fun" I get totally worn out running around, socializing all day.
You may try to just implement a few "rules" that say "relax" or "sabbath" to you. Ease into it. Communicate it to your husband and kids. It may take some time. But eventually, I think you will be able to pull it off most weeks.
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We do Sunday's. Part of the point of Sabbath is if you read the entire verse is you are supposed to do two things. You are supposed to Worship: Aka go to church, and you are supposed to rest. That is why we do it on Sunday. You also have to sacrifice those things that you would normally be doing on Sunday and find ways to do them at another time or day.
I think it is less important what day you do them, but you need to be worshiping and resting on the same day, thus what the commandment and verse says.
BTW that means we say no to birthday parties, no to shopping, we plan things on Saturday's before hand, we use the crock pot a lot so that we don't have to do huge dinners. However if you go Luke 14:5 you do realize that somethings do have to be done. If my kid starts barfing, I start laundry. I sometimes still have to water the garden, because it's an ongoing process if it doesn't rain. But we stick to family things and focus on just us. My parents did the same as did my Aunts and Uncles and we are so close now as grandchildren and it is wonderful!
My husband is forcing me and our children.
It’s an awful feeling for us. We get sick to our stomachs every Friday night anticipating for the next day.
My husband reads at the kitchen table all day ignoring us. If anything is said it’s judgment and comments being made.
I feel like he is beating the Sunday “church going” out of us. We are suppose to be one but now we are torn into two. No more family days or date nights.
Any advice for my girls and I?
They miss their dad and I miss my husband
I’m sorry that your husband’s attempts at taking a Sabbath are causing you and your daughters to feel isolated and alone. I’m not sure I completely understand the situation and what your husband is forcing you to do. Is he forcing you to allow him to have a day of rest each week where he can be left alone to read? Is he also forcing you and the girls to rest one day a week?
My advice would be to talk to your husband about your feelings and see if you can reach some sort of understanding about his expectations vs. your expectations. Obviously, Sabbath is a gift to us and shouldn’t be regulated by “forcing” anyone to do anything. If he’s not receptive to having a discussion about it, then perhaps you can your girls can find a way to make Sabbath what YOU need it to be. Maybe make every Saturday “Girl Day” and plan something that is fun for you and your daughters. You can have a “date night” with your girls and plan fun family outings that will give your husband the rest he craves while also giving you and your girls the fun family time you need.