Spiritual Practice: Sabbath Rest
On Mondays, when I’m in the middle of my work day, I get a calendar reminder on my phone that says, “Tomorrow is your Sabbath.” The notification gives me great joy and peace knowing tomorrow I can rest.
The word Sabbath means different things to different people. To my Jewish friends it comes from the creation story where God created the world in six days and on the seventh day rested. He commands his followers to do the same, and when I lived in Israel, the Sabbath was definitely something to look forward to! It was celebrated from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday, so we spent Friday shopping and chopping, preparing a fantastic dinner to share with friends. Good food, good friends, good wine, joy and rest. Everything was closed Saturday so there was nowhere to go, nothing to do but relax. It is a beautiful practice.
Americans, however, even the Christians who still celebrate a form of the Sabbath on Sundays, have largely missed the point of Sabbath Rest. They rush off to church, dragging their screaming children, because they are usually late, and sit through a service that may or may not renew their souls. The rest of the day might be full of errands or house cleaning or yard work. It isn’t very restful. Plus, everything is open for business, so there is shopping to be done! I don’t know about you but I generally clean the house, do the laundry and buy my groceries on Sundays.
I had the good fortune of working for a ministry that taught me the importance of taking a Sabbath day to rest to restore my soul. For most people in ministry, the weekend is not a good time for Sabbath rest as it is full of ministry opportunities. That is why my Sabbath falls on a Tuesday. I plan my work schedule around my Sabbath.
I see Sabbath as a day to reconnect with myself and with God — a day to do things that are good for my soul. My Sabbath day might go like this: I don’t set the alarm and wake up with I’m done sleeping. I enjoy some time to read and pray, or as on an extra special morning, get a massage! Then I generally go to the library and sit in the corner quiet area. This is where I write. I love to write and writing restores my soul in a very real way. You might have a different favorite activity like hiking or reading or going to a movie or scheduling lunch with a friend or taking a nap. At lunch I may treat myself to food I don’t normally eat, like a Taco Bell burrito and a diet coke. In the evening I enjoy my Yoga class. It’s a day of spaciousness and settling and reminding myself what is truly important.
If you’re a young parent, having a Sabbath might seem impossible. But, I’ve known couples who have done Sabbaths together, or taken half-day Sabbath’s so they can trade the children off with each other. I’ve known single parents who have traded kids with friends for a few hours so they can have mini Sabbaths. When you have small ones, two or three hours for yourself is an incredible luxury.
And don’t think it’s going to happen naturally once you’re retired. I’ve noticed that as soon as someone retires other people tend to make demands on their time, which is fine, if that gives you joy. But, if you want to have a Sabbath, no matter what your life situation is, you’re going to have to make boundaries around that day, or that period of time, and defend them against the myriad offers to do other good things. With Sabbath, like with most things, you are not choosing between good and bad things, but good and better things. No one will value your time for you, you have to fight for it yourself.
So, give it a try. First, brainstorm these questions:
What would I do if I had an entire day to myself?
What most makes my soul feel light, happy, and renewed?
How can I consciously connect with God, myself, and my body?
Then, decide when and how to make it happen. Let me know if you try it and how it goes. Enjoy this day of rest.