I grew up in a home where Sunday was our designated “day of rest”. As a child, I often found this day to be a bit boring, and I wasn’t always sure what I should be doing to “rest” because to me that implied sleep, and as a child that didn’t seem to be too enticing. While I knew that keeping the Sabbath was important enough that it was included in the ten commandments, I didn’t realize the full value of this opportunity until a bit later in life.
It was when I began ministry seven years ago, that I really began to learn more about the Sabbath. Rather than just thinking of it as a dull day of not doing a whole lot, I began to discover what it really means to keep the Sabbath, and what gives me life and what doesn’t. I enjoyed exploring the concept of the Sabbath as a day of rest and looking at ways to not only rest my body but also my mind and my soul.
When Jeremy and I got married, we got the book “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” by Marva Dawn and a set of handmade pottery candleholders from our supervisor as a gift. She encouraged us to create our own Sabbath rituals as a new family. This was most certainly one of the most meaningful wedding gift we received and we enjoyed exploring this idea together.
In his book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” Pete Scazzero writes about four components of a biblical Sabbath; Stop, Rest, Delight and Contemplate.
Sometimes, I find the “stopping” to be the hardest. To just leave those last few things undone, the laundry in the basket or the one thing left on my to do list. And yet, I know, I could keep going and going, and really, the list would never end. I could always find something to add or one last thing to quickly get done. Once I’ve stopped the other three seem to come a lot easier.
In the beginning of our marriage, without knowing about the ideas of stop, rest, delight and contemplate, we intuitively looked for things to do that incorporated those concepts. We slept in and woke without an alarm and had a tradition of having pancakes for brunch. We spent time at parks, the beach and with friends and spent time reading books to one another and discussing the ideas.
The Sabbath has always been a delight for us, something we anticipate each week. We’ve never felt like it is a chore or an obligation, but a wonderful gift.
We enjoy attending our church services in the morning and then coming home in the afternoon to rest, delight and contemplate.
One thing that I discovered about myself is that I need to be careful how much I am involved in on the Sabbath. I have at times committed myself to more than one social engagement on a Sabbath and discovered at the end of the day, that I felt “gypped” or “ripped off” because while I enjoyed time with friends, I felt emotionally exhausted and not at all refreshed. While I am quite social and love my friends and family, as my friend often says, “Too much of a good thing is still too much”.
It was only recently when I discovered that I have forgotten the “delight” aspect of our sabbath. Lately I’ve found, I often prefer to sleep, read or just hang out on the couch and have forgotten to be intentional to delight. I’m looking for ways to be more mindful of this for the future. Even playing games with my husband or going out to dinner together can be delightful if I choose to do them. I’m looking forward to going back on our photo walks in spring, which we enjoy where I feel invigorated by the fresh air and looking for God in pockets of the city.
I realize that keeping the Sabbath looks different for a lot of people. We might be in a season of life where we have others to care for, children or elderly parents. We might have a career that requires us to work odd hours. We might not have a social circle that supports this kind of practice. And yet, each of us can practice Sabbath in our own ways, sometimes beginning with just one afternoon each week and building on that. .
What about you? How do you enjoy the Sabbath? How do you keep it feeling fresh rather than a sense of obligation?