Last Saturday I slept in until 8:30. My husband brought me coffee in bed, and we talked for several minutes while the kids played downstairs. I took a deep breath and felt a settling sense of peace. Then I had a startling thought: Why don't we do this more?
Nancy Beach writes, "The Sabbath is actually life-giving when we free up time and space to practice it." I agree, so what keeps me from practicing Sabbath? When I consider my lack of rest and then ask myself this question, I give a litany of excuses:
- It's not really important
- I don't need it
- I'll waste time
- I can't carve that out in my schedule
- It requires too much planning
- I hate rules!
Sabbath-keeping is a direct commandment in Scripture, and my list of excuses adds up to nothing more than disobedience. So what's a frazzled heart to do? What if I got serious about practicing Sabbath, to "taste and see" that keeping God's rule of life is actually good—for me, for my family, and for my relationship with God?
If this resonates with you, I'd like to invite you into a Sabbath-keeping experiment. This practice of Sabbath-keeping is a take-it-slow kind of experience, designed to help you make the space to find that re-centering peace with God. Over the next six weeks, take a few small steps to experience Sabbath peace.
Week #1: Sabbath Dreams
This week, physically or mentally prepare a list of reasons why you don't practice Sabbath. Oftentimes, small children or ministry commitments end up making it impossible to find a 24-hour period of time that's available. Jonlyn Fincher offers us some Sabbath flexibility by inviting us to consider what feels like "work" and "not work." So this week, journal these questions:
- What feels like work to me?
- What would I do if all my work was done?
- What are my reasons for not keeping a Sabbath?
If Sabbath seems like a pipe dream for your overfull life, then start by knocking off one or two of your "work" items and adding one or two of your "not work" items this week. Consider this a "taste" of Sabbath in your life.
Week #2: Sabbath Realities
Whether you're good at Sabbath or laugh at the idea of actually resting for an entire day, you can start somewhere. As you continue to add to your list of "work" and "not work," consider the time-suckers that steal your rest. Chores? Cell phone? Facebook? Work responsibilities? This week, relentlessly cut those things out of one 24-hour period. Are you more addicted to work than you'd like to admit? It's often in the boredom and silence that we discover the true condition of our hearts. Bring it before God and allow him to recalibrate your identity in nothing but his love.
Week #3: Sabbath Play
Lauren Winner says, "I do things that give me and God joy." Carolyn Arends writes about the wonder of children who are outside of time, and how when we rest on the Sabbath we experience the "whiff" of living outside of time. Do you remember how to play? This week, challenge yourself to do something that you used to love or that brings you joy. Think back (maybe way back). Cartwheels? Kickball? Finding pictures in the clouds? Shrug off your adulthood for a block of time and embrace the reality of being a "little child" in God's eyes.
Week #4: Sabbath Family
If you live in a family, making choices about Sabbath isn't easy. This week, plan ahead to minimize your responsibilities for one day. Prepare a make-ahead meal or a sandwich platter. Finish chores before the time you've set aside. When that time comes, model for your family your own rhythm of rest without forcing them to participate. You may be surprised to find that they follow your lead. At the least, you can expect some good conversation around the need for rest in everyone's life.
Week #5: Sabbath Experiment
Put it all together this week. Silence distractions. Prepare ahead to avoid things that feel like work. Choose to rest, sit, read, play. If you've tended to keep Sabbath for a morning, try to keep it for 24 hours. Perhaps you'll include a simple dinner over candlelight to begin on Saturday evening and hold off on planning or preparing for the week until Sunday after dinner. What did you learn? Did you find yourself anxious or antsy? Look back at your answers from week #1 about excuses for not keeping the Sabbath and remind yourself that God commanded rest for a reason.
Week #6: Sabbath Reflections
Reflect on this experiment. What have you learned about yourself? What part of Sabbath is easy? What's hard? Have you noticed any changes in your work throughout the week? We aren't bound by strict regulations or oppressive rules, but by practicing Sabbath in a way that brings rest and joy, we honor the real heart behind the commandment.