How To "Sabbath"
I’ve found it ironic this week that I was asked to write on Sabbath rest, because all I’ve done lately is make excuses for not taking Sabbath. There is always another paper to write, another sermon to prepare, another meeting to have, or another congregant who needs me. It’s far too easy to tell myself that I will take Sabbath some other time, because if I take it now, I’ll only put myself even farther behind. I don’t prioritize Sabbath.
How many roles do you play in your life? My roles include being a wife, a pet-owner, a friend, a pastor, an insurance agent, a seminary student, a daughter, a sister, a mentor, and a mentee. This makes at least ten roles I lead in my daily life, and that’s only surface level---I haven’t even gone into all of the sub-roles that accompany any of these roles. If you are anything like me, I’m guessing you probably have an endless list of roles and sub-roles that each have their own sub-roles, too. If that doesn’t seem overwhelming enough, each of my roles have their own list of expectations, both from myself and from others.
When I think about all of the expectations I have for all of my roles, it doesn’t take long for me to feel overwhelmed. I am always carrying a calendar with me so I can make sure I am prioritizing tasks and squeezing everything in wherever it can possibly fit. I fill my schedule with everything except for rest. I am addicted to my tasks. I am addicted to my busy-ness. I am addicted to my schedule. Ultimately, I am addicted to control. If my schedule is filled, and I am always working on something, then I have no need for Sabbath.
I am a prisoner to my own mind when it comes to Sabbath for two reasons. The first reason being that if I am resting, it means tasks are not getting done, which I believe will lead to more work after Sabbath is over. If I rest, I have no control over how much work is getting done, and therefore, I have no control over how much work there will be left to do. The second reasons that I am a prisoner to my own mind is that if I am not the one accomplishing a task, someone else may do it. If someone else does it, it means others will see that someone else is capable of doing it. The anxiety and depression that have controlled my life for so long have me convinced that if someone else is capable of doing a task, then I am neither wanted or needed.
All I have done lately is make excuses for not taking Sabbath.
I recently had a meeting with my mentor in which we were discussing a paper I am writing for a class about how I am going to balance being a seminary student along with everything else going on in my life. In the paper, I mentioned something about needing to practice Sabbath more. I brushed over it very lightly. I acknowledged that I know God commands us to rest, but I can rest when I have the time. My mentor said to me, “Sabbath is an excellent practice, and it is something you ought to start now. It doesn’t get any easier to take time away from all of your tasks to rest.” His words struck me; Sabbath doesn’t get any easier. I can make all the excuses I want for putting it off, but this fact does not change. Sabbath doesn’t get any easier to practice.
He went even further to tell me, “I’m always amazed at how much more I get done when I take time to rest.” My biggest excuse for not practicing Sabbath is that I fear how many tasks there will be to catch up on...but more work always seems to get done when I took the time to rest than it does when I did not make Sabbath a priority. Since this conversation, I have been working on a Rule of Sabbath. I have decided to post this Rule in this post in the hopes that someone may find it beneficial. Feel free to take it or leave it. Dear reader, I do however encourage you to seek understanding of the what, how, and why of Sabbath for yourself. At the end of the day, we can make as many excuses as we want for not taking the time to rest. But these excuses do not change the fact that we are a people called to Sabbath living, and we ought to live out that call as God has intended for us.
With that being said, the Rule of Sabbath I have is as follows:
● Sabbath is not a suggestion, it is a command. The term “command” normally carries a negative association, but it shouldn’t when it comes to Sabbath. When God gives us a command, it is not so he can go on a power trip. Rather, God’s commands are born out of the very essence of God’s being. God is love, and his commands pour out from love in order to protect his beloved creation from harm. The command of Sabbath keeping is not a command that turns us into puppets on strings, who work when instructed to work and rest when instructed to rest. Instead, it is a command that God intended to be taken seriously so that we may be able to accomplish everything else God has called us to do.
● Sabbath is always an act of faith. The most common excuse I have heard from others about not taking Sabbath is the “I don’t have the time” excuse. We say we do not have the time to take Sabbath because of how time consuming everything else we have to do is. We are addicted to our busy-ness. But Sabbath is a command, and not a suggestion. God did not say, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, but only when everything else is already done and you have some extra time.” God said, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Sabbath rest is an act of faith in that by taking the time to rest, we are taking the time to acknowledge God’s provision. It is a time of recognizing that the things we can accomplish, we accomplish by God alone. It is a time in which we let go of our addiction to control and give our time to God. It is a time of trusting that the tasks left unfinished will be done, and if they are not, then everything is still going to somehow be okay. We act in faith by taking Sabbath in that we recognize that our stopping to take the time to rest does not stop God from being God.
● Sabbath is a time to remember and reflect on God’s provision. There are physical and mental elements to Sabbath. We do not physically work, and we do not physically earn. We do not mentally plan out tasks. We give our physical and mental selves over to God, and for one whole day each week, we trust God to provide without the work of our own hands. Sabbath reminds us that it is not by our own hands that we have anything, and it reminds us that God is more than capable of providing for us every day of the week.
● Sabbath is not a task, it is a way of life. Sabbath living is not a chore, and it is not another task that we add to our calendars. It is a way of life. It is not only a day of the week in which we find rest, it is the anticipation of the celebration that comes from that day each week. It is a time when we come to be refreshed by the grace of God, and it is an overflow of that grace towards others. If we follow the command of Sabbath, we are not simply performing a mindless task each week. It is not about being lazy for the sake of being lazy. It is a matter of intentional rest that gives us life, and life abundantly.
● Sabbath can be scheduled. With that being said, Sabbath is not another task to check off each week, but it is something that can be scheduled. I have found that scheduling Sabbath has helped me a lot. When it is in my calendar, I stick to it; and if someone asks me to do something during my Sabbath time, I simply tell them that I am not available.
I encourage you, reader, to find a way of practicing Sabbath that is the most life-giving for you.
Grace and Peace to you all,