Monday, April 30, 2012

I needed a Sabbath.

I have gone back and forth, over the years, on the issue of keeping a "Sabbath." I'm referring to the commandment (one of the 10, incidentally) that says to keep the seventh day of the week holy, or literally "set apart" for the Lord. The Bible also clarifies that God's people are to do no work on the Sabbath, that it is to be a day of rest.

What it means to keep a Sabbath day has been interpreted in a zillion different ways. I know some families who take this very literally. They not only try to avoid any work on Sunday, but they also try to stay away from activities that require others to work, such as going out to a restaurant. Others I've talked to feel that they take that rest time spread out over the week, like chunks of sabbath time, but not all at once on a set day. I'd say most of my Christian friends and family members, however, don't actually observe what they would identify as a Sabbath rest at all.

I've gone back and forth, like I said, over the years. I do try to take the Bible literally and obey it's commands as much as possible. And I do believe God absolutely knows what is best for us. If He has commanded that we should work for six days and then keep the seventh as a day of rest in a given week, who am I to change that around?

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus 20:8-11

For me, I just question why on earth I resist His specified weekly structure.

Wait, I know why.
Because my pride interferes with my obedience.

Because I think I know what's best for me.
Because I think getting stuff done will better serve my family and me so I stay in a constant state of asking myself, "What needs to be done next?"

And this past Friday, I saw a busy weekend looming. Saturday was going to be filled with commitments all strung together one after the next. After the kids went to bed, I couldn't do anything else. I declared out loud, "I need a Sabbath." I needed it all to stop.

Problem was that my sink was full of dishes. My laundry basket was full of clean, unfolded clothes. My fridge was end-of-the-week empty. Normally, every other week, there is no way I'd walk away from all that to rest for a full day. No way. But Saturday night, I knew I had no choice. It was as if I had already run a marathon without a drop of water. Not one more thing could be done until I drank deep some Sabbath rest.

Sunday, we went to church. We worshipped, we learned. We went home.
I pushed down my impulse to work.
We made sandwiches at home and then gathered some things into the car. 
I pushed down my anxiety from not working. Over and over, actually.
I brought two magazines that had been gathering dust on my desk. I actually read them while my husband did a few light jobs for my parents. Then we got some exercise with the kids. It was great. It felt good.
We were all so happy.

I don't know if it was related, but my kids played so amazingly well together all day. Playing, laughing, and being silly. I don't recall any bickering or whining at all. Did they perhaps need a sabbath too? (Lord, how have I robbed them of rest through my own disobedience!?) 

When we returned home, all the piles loomed. And then I remembered that according to the Jewish calendar, the end of the day is considered sundown. Their tradition was that the new day starts in the evening, and carries until the next sundown. It made so much sense to me, in terms of taking a Sabbath, for me, for my life. I had stopped working Saturday night (out of sheer exhaustion, this week anyway), took all of Sunday to rest, and then was energized and refreshed to get to work Sunday night, preparing for the week. It was like God gave me a green light and a full heart to dive back in to the holy jobs He's given me. And I had the means to do them well, with a happy heart and a full tank.

So often, I approach my jobs, particularly in my home, with a heavy heart, as if they burden me. I wonder if it's because I've neglected God's order for my week and disobeyed His command to rest. Perhaps this running-on-empty feeling is more of a choice than I've realized.

And Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."
Mark 2:27

I take time daily to spend with Him, to fill up spiritually. But is that enough? Are my body and mind receiving enough quiet and refreshment in those moments to carry me through seven whole days? I don't think so. Something has been missing. And I suspect it's a Sabbath.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this?



  1. Just stumbled into your blog through the wonderful blog trail :) I have always kept a "Sabbath." More specifically, the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday). I just simply can't imagine my emotional/physical/spiritual life without it! During long weeks I can't wait for it; during particularly rejuvenating Sabbaths I dread it passing. And while we don't work or clean on the Sabbath, I feel there are more ways I could learn to "stop" during this weekly opportunity.

    1. Yay! I am 3 months behind with this reply, but ahhhh.... a Senenth Day, Sabbath keeper. :) Refreshing! I am too.

  2. about a month ago i was talking to our pastors wife after church and she asked what we were doing that afternoon. i told i had a ton of laundry waiting for me. she looked at me with eyes as big as saucers and said "you can't do it today. if you do it today you won't catch up all week. at least that's how it is for me. it's the sabbath keep it holy. the laundry will be there tomorrow and everyday after that. just wait"

    her words made so much sense to me. HELLO! keeping the sabbath is a direction from GOD. so i waited kept the sabbath and i don't think i'll ever go back to my old ways. ;)

    "Perhaps this running-on-empty feeling is more of a choice than I've realized."
    i agree! i could say no more often than i do.

    rest is good.

  3. This subject has flitted in and out of my mind for the past year or so. What I've been wrestling with is that I feel as though we have such little time here and I want to use every bit of it to the fullest, so I have a hard time slowing down and remembering to obey the commandment to rest. And who's to say that "rest" means to not do anything at all, and as mentioned before, rest is a good thing! I guess I just really struggle in finding the balance of rest, what it means exactly in different circumstances, and how to implement it.

  4. I LOVE this post. I found many years ago that Sunday was the day that we dumped everything on. We filled our week up with busy and then on Sunday spent the day running between church and home, no meal prepared and a house full of chores to do.

    I had to draw a line in the sand. Sometimes that means preparing ahead, and sometimes it means some things do not get done. It always means that we feel refreshed and ready for the next week.

    We spend our time resting, playing and renewing.

    It is good.

  5. We just took a position on staff at our church in Wheaton, IL. Part of what our pastors encourage is taking a Sabbath on Mondays. It really has been such a gift to us!! We don't make appointments with people, I don't work on chores...we simply spend time together as a family. Every day is so full and life moves so quickly, but knowing there this is one day a week where I will fully rest in the joys that God has placed in my life makes all the other stuff easier somehow. A busy week doesn't feel so busy when I know my day of focused rest is coming. And I'm learning not to apologize for it or feel weird about it...I NEED IT, my kids need it, my husband needs it! It's a gift and it's something I would tell anyone to pray about doing as a regular lifestyle...who couldn't use more focused time to rest and reflect on the goodness of God in our lives???!! I know I need to! HA!

  6. Ah, the sabbath!
    For a type a perfectionist like me.... Hard!
    Like you, I see all the work that needs to be done and I feel like its looming over me.
    Maybe that's satan's way of burdening my heart?
    Not totally sure.
    But, in saying that, we have tried very hard to rest on Sundays.
    Another thing that's conducive to keeping it a day of rest is that in our town of 12,000 all stores are closed on Sunday's.
    Yup, like the good old days!
    Sometimes it's annoying bc I just need a few groceries...
    but I am certainly thankful for it. :)
    We keep Sundays as our family day, with extended too.
    We always have a nice time and once a month I'd say I probably take a nap on those days too!
    Now that's what I call being productive!!!
    Thank you Lord for rest!!
    He definitely knew what he was doing, huh? ;)

  7. great post, leslie.

    i know people who are pretty legalistic with the sabbath and it repels me. on the other hand i know individuals who never stop and that saddens me, too.

    sometimes sabbath happens on sunday around here, and sometimes it happens in sabbath moments. sometimes both. i've attempted to live without sabbath rest, and know how desperately i NEED it.

    i know though how vitally important it is for me to stop. to stop and "be still and know that he is God." i need to be intimate with the
    Divine Romance. that intimacy comes from stopping and just finding my Home in his arms (just as it does with my husband, even with my children).

  8. I love this post and your encouragement (and the story behind your own sabbath). Our church just went through a work series and Sabbath was a one of the teachings. It was amazing!!! WE decided to start keeping a Sabbath (for us it is Sunday) and it is so incredible to just rest and let God be God and not try to keep pushing on, doing another deed, accomplishing another task, etc.

    love this-thank you for the reminder of His commandments (the ones that are good for all people, for all times)

    Love, Anna Norman

  9. The story of the Sabbath you and your family enjoyed together is beautiful. I pray it continues for you.

    I wish I could tell you that my family has the Sabbath thing down, but we don't. It's a constant struggle. In fact, I'm tired. Very tired. I'm reading a book called Leading on Empty and it is challenging me deeply. I've asked my husband to read it, too.

    Thank you for sharing real stuff with us, Leslie. I so enjoy the challenges you issue to us on a regular basis!

  10. maggie with gussy sews wrote a post on resting and it got my wheels turning about the Bible's approach to rest, and, therefore, the sabbath. i feel bad admitting this, but once a month we sleep in on sunday morning. gasp! we don't go to church. instead we all sleep in and then do an activity as a family, usually out in nature.
    thank you for your insight on the topic. i really loved it. hope all is well, friend.

  11. I love your blog! My family and I try to keep the Sabbath day holy every Sunday. We don't go anywhere but church. We don't work, clean, buy things, play with friends, or play video games. We try to have a relaxing day remembering Christ and enjoying the day reflecting on the gospel. It is a great day to rest from the troubles of the world and spend time with each other as a family. I don't think I could get through life with out that relaxing and spiritual Sunday. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Sabbath day.

  12. It's really a gift for us, isn't it... a gift that God wants us to receive. A way He wants us to emulate him. I think for me it was hard to keep Sabbaths because I have a hard time setting boundaries. God ended up having to set boundaries for me. It's been the hardest lesson of my life.

    I love seeing how your family rested and enjoyed one another. :)

  13. I know I'm coming to the conversation late but this is a topic I feel strongly about.
    Over the last several years, our pastor (who is literally one of the busiest people on the planet. seriously) has been encouraging us to obey the commandment for a Sabbath. There's a reason God has told us to rest or to stop, which is what the words sabbath, or shabbat in Hebrew, means. It's good for us! Over the last couple years we've become very protective of our Sundays. It's a day for rest, not to be filled up with more things. It does take some practice and organization to get everything else done before (or wait until after) Sunday so we can rest. How silly does it sound that we need to organize to rest? :) If for some reason we do have a busy, full Sunday, I feel off the rest of the week.
    I know my thoughts are a little scattered but I basically want to encourage you to keep at it! You'll see a big difference in your family! Obedience to the Lord can only bring blessing!

  14. We definitely keep Sunday free of "chores". Sometimes our Sunday becomes busy with church things, serving, meetings, etc. But when church is over we "rest". I would say the only activity we do would be fellowship. We may have people over for a BBQ or go out to lunch with another family. Maybe go to the park to ride bikes. As my pastor says "the nature of work is, it will never be done". Sabbath is so important for our bodies and our souls. Glad you took the time to do that ;)

  15. Oh thank you for bringing up this important subject. So many folks just don't get it about keeping the Sabbath. I'm glad you do. ;) Blessings to you, my dear.

    Just stumbled upon your blog while cruising from one blog to the next... and yours is most refreshing. Hugs and prayers to you and yours. ♥

  16. Such an important topic! I am a Sabbath-keeper, have been my whole life. We choose to honor the seventh day as instructed in the ten commandments, and as illustrated by Jesus' keeping it when he was here on earth. In fact, there is no instruction in the Bible to do otherwise. The Bible clearly states to "remember" the seventh day, the only commandment that has that warning, as if God knew His people would have a hard time keeping those boundaries.

    In my opinion, when people chose to keep a day of their own picking, or grabbing a rest afternoon here and there it is mostly something of their own picking. The Bible is clear, the Sabbath is the seventh day, Saturday, and always has been. Why would we, how can we, as humans decide that's not right for us and pick another day or time? We keep the other 9 commandments, but this one is just as important - it is God's request of us, and it is an honor to follow!

    I have never seen the Sabbath as a legalistic thing, it is good for my body, it is a time to refresh with the Lord, it is a wonderful 24 hours! We go to church, enjoy a potluck meal and fellowship, and then walk in nature, rest, visit shut-ins, or do other outreach things.

    Blessings to you all!

  17. Just found your blog through my daughter. I was immediately drawn to this post as I've struggled with the idea of Sabbath rest much of my adult life. I grew up in the 50's & early 60's when all of society pretty much kept Sunday as a day to worship and rest. No stores or restaurants open. We went to church, had a home cooked meal and spent the rest of the day napping, reading, or visiting extended family. I look back on it as a wonderful time. After I got married and had my own family, we were very involved in church. So we went to church in the morning, had dinner - sometimes at home- sometimes out and then went home to rest because we returned to church Sunday night. There were many times, I really didn't want to go back to church Sunday night but I guess we felt guilted into doing it. That was what good Christians did (too legalistic). After my kids were grown, our church dropped Sunday night services. I was so relieved and found my Sunday's became much more restful. I've become even more "liberal" or perhaps tuned into God's plans as I've gotten older. If I don't feel like going to church on any given Sunday, I no longer feel guilty about it. I've had some of my best spiritual retreats on days like that- just reading the Word, or an inspirational book, or journaling. I realized a few years ago the wrong message we probably gave to our children. My daughter and her family were coming from out of state for the weekend. I suggested that we invite her brother & wife to go hiking with us on Sunday. My kids said "Mom, you can miss church?!" I said, "Yes, I think this is how the Lord wants us to spend the day." We went to a beautiful state park and spent the day hiking. I felt so close to the Lord and my family and felt refreshed, relaxed, and at peace when we got home. So, thanks for posting about Sabbath. It is much needed and neglected by everyone including believers.