Sabbath keeping sometimes feels like it is next to impossible to do.
As a parent of multiple young children, Sunday is mostly like any other day. Get up, eat, get ready, go to the church gathering, come home, eat lunch, play, play, play, eat an early dinner, go to Life Group, bath, read, bed. With the exception of the church gathering and Life Group part, my tasks are pretty similar to any other day. I help the kids with most things, feed them, help them bathe, break up fights, discipline, talk about feelings and frustrations, read the same book a gazillion times, etc etc etc. While Sabbathing with kids can be very tricky, Jake and I discovered a few ways to make it more restful for us.
Even with these tricks, however, Sabbathing still isn’t easy. I suspect those who don’t have kids, or have older kids, feel the same way. Just as with sleep, Sabbath is about ceasing the work, ceasing the striving, ceasing the hustle– and slowing.
Sabbath is not only about trusting God that He can take care of things and helping us to recognize our own human limitations, but it’s also about love. God created the Sabbath for us. He desires for us to take joy in Him, take joy in one another, and slow down enough to listen to what our life is telling us.
The truth is, sabbath keeping is a discipline that will mess with you, because once you move beyond just thinking about it and actually begin to practice it, the goodness of it will capture you, body, soul and spirit. You will long to wake up to a day that stretches out in front of you with nothing in it but rest and delight. You will long for a simple way to turn your heart toward God in worship without much effort. You will long for a space in time when the pace is slow and family and friends linger with one another, savoring one another’s presence because no one has anywhere else to go. (133, Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton).
Some of us may have experienced our fair share of joyless Sabbaths growing up. The kind that leaves you wondering if you’re doing the right thing or wrong thing, and people constantly asking, “does this count as work?” Those kinds of questions really do ruin the whole point of it all. We see Jesus freaking out at the Pharisees for such questions. They were too busy burdening people with all the religious rules and regulations (whether intentionally or unintentionally) and totally missing the precious gift of it all.
Here’s what I think: We know a Sabbath when we have one.
For me, in this season of my life, Sabbathing looks different than my ideal- mostly because I have a family who all has different ideas of what their ideal Sabbath looks like.
- For Jake, rest looks like sleeping :).
- For Ada, rest looks like joyfully running up and down a field, playing soccer and locking herself in the craft closet all afternoon.
- For Aly, resting is reading on the couch with a cozy blanket and a cup of tea.
- For Asante, his ideal Sabbath would be either reading or running around some sports field.
- For Anaya, well, I think hers would look like watching endless episodes of Curious George and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse :).
- And for me? Rest looks like a stretch of a few hours of quiet with delicious beverages and a pile of books.
So, for this semester, Sabbath looks like attending a church gathering, an afternoon of unstructured time for all of us (with the exception of a 45 minute soccer game for Ada sometime in there), leftovers for dinner (no work for anyone!) and our Sunday Treat (we eat desserts EVERY Sunday as a celebration of the Resurrection), and Life Group in the evening. Once soccer ends, we’ll probably substitute an occasional trip to the library on Sunday afternoons because it’s something we all really love to do together.
My biggest temptation of Sabbath-keeping is to work and call it Sabbathing. If pressed, I will argue that it gives me enjoyment. Well of course it does! It fulfills my desires to be productive, to be useful, to feel worthwhile. But, I also know that my body needs rest. I need to feel my human limitations, not just mentally acknowledge them.