We call it "working for the weekend"
The rhythm of working hard, then crashing and recuperating so we can do it all again is familiar to many. However, it has the affect turning our lives into nothing more than a production-focused mush, where "rest" is a survival concept, not something to be truly enjoyed.
How to observe the Sabbath as a born-again Christian was a relatively late concept in my life. Like most western people, my concept of "rest" is the Aristotelian one - "relaxation for the sake for activity."
Enter the Sabbath; one of the ten commandments predicated on emulating the 7th day of Creation, when God rested from His labor. Sabbath is a commanded day - a sacred slice of time carved out of the ordinary week where we turn our attention from the demands of earthly existence to our nurturing our purpose to exist for God. It is a day for the sake of life. On the Sabbath, we unhitch our lives from the enslavement of the material world, and enter into a foretaste of Paradise.
“Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth;
on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.
The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else.“
- Rabbi Abraham Herschel
Observing the Sabbath involves a practical ordering of our lives to emulate the Holy Spirit that lives within us. It has already changed my life, even though I haven't come close to mastering it yet.
I'd like to give you a few practical tips for engraining the Sabbath into the fabric of your family life. I hope you find the following helpful in drawing closer to the spirit of the Sabbath.
Rest as if all your work was done
Remember, the rest God modeled on the 7th day of creation wasn't because He was tired, but to teach us that we are more than what we produce. By resting from our labor, we remind ourselves that we are not God and that work will remain incomplete. Unlike Aristotle's "relaxation for the sake of activity" - our rest is for the sake of life, to enjoy a taste of the eternal life to come.
ACTION ITEM: Set a time when the mental demands of job, housework, and physical and mental planning for the future, will be set aside and the attention of your mind and soul will be fully engaged in enjoying the present. Say to yourself, "My stresses and concerns can wait, I choose to rest from them for 24 hours starting at 5pm on Saturday."
Guard your soul
The Sabbath isn't just a day of rest from physical labor, but also for the mind and soul. Jewish scholars have a Sabbath saying, "You shall kindle no fire, not even the fire of righteous indignation." Sabbath gives us permission to refrain from stirring up emotional concerns about the state of the world, politics, and personal disputes and concerns. Your soul needs permission to rest and delight too!
ACTION ITEM: Be selective about what you allow access to your mind and soul on the Sabbath. You might consider
- Disconnecting from technology: placing your devices in a room and spending the majority of the day without them.
- Selecting topics that are off the table for conversation (politics, pandemics)
- Allowing conversations with difficult people to wait until Monday.
Infuse Sabbath with worship
Sabbath reminds us that there is a divine purpose to our existence beyond striving for survival or success. It draws us close to the eternal presence of God. Sabbath was the only day God marked as holy; it is for leisure, yes, but also is tinged with the sacred. It calls us to the higher purpose of creation - a moment of time in the presence of God. This is why worship with our church community is not simply an obligation we meet on the Sabbath, but a joyful calling to our purpose - we are baptized into God's family and will one day worship Him together forever.
ACTION ITEM: Intentionally create and atmosphere of anticipation and joy around worshiping with our church community.
Personal take: One of our chief aims with our kids has been to make the process of preparing for and going to worship with our church to be marked with joy and anticipation. We prepare the night before, laying out our clothes, talking about what we're excited about. While my position as Pastor mostly requires that I arrive at church early, I generally bring 1 or 2 of my children with me. We sing worship music on the way, and when we arrive they gleefully run around, talking to adults as they prepare and playing with their friends. Occasionally, we'll get to go to church together as a family, and it's always a highlight of my day, walking into church together, raising our hands and singing, embracing our life community. I encourage you to try shaping this atmosphere as Sunday draws near.
Sabbath is a celebration of life! It has an atmosphere, a disposition marked by restfulness AND celebration. God blessed the 7th day as a day of delight, and in observing this day, we intentionally cheer our souls with good things. One rabbi said, "It is a sin to be sad on the Sabbath." That doesn't mean sad things won't occur, but that we should nurture joy and celebration as the focus of our actions.
ACTION ITEM: I'll let this quote from Dan Allender sum up the disposition of the Sabbath.
“The Sabbath is an invitation to enter delight. The Sabbath, when experienced as God intended, is the best day of our lives. Without question or thought, it is the best day of the week. Sabbath is the holy time where we feast, play, dance, have sex, sing, pray, laugh, tell stories, read, paint, walk, and watch creation in its fullness. Few people are willing to enter the Sabbath, sanctify it, to make it holy, because a full day of delight and joy is more than most people can bear in a lifetime, let alone a week.”
I hope that embracing this concept with help fill your life with the hope and joy found in your purpose as God's most precious Creation. I pray that the Holy Spirit fills your life with God's presence and that you will continue to know Him and enjoy Him forever!
For more on the concept of the Sabbath, check out Pastor Nick's message, "Rhythm of Purpose" from our series, "Sacred Rhythms."