“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness.
They grow in rest.” — Mark Buchanan
We lit a tiny, very average looking candle at the start of Sabbath last Friday afternoon. Staring into the amber light, I was flooded with memories of our Sabbath practices from years before. When Glenn and I first started learning about the spiritual practice of a weekly Sabbath about eight years ago, we became quite zealous and intentional about it. You know the feeling that comes with any new habit that you are determined to make a part of your life… In that season, we lit a ‘special’ candle each week, dropped all our screen devices in a basket, and said a special prayer to guide us into the next 24 hours.
Sabbath was a special time we purposely set aside each week to stop and rest from regular work activity and to delight in the Lord and His people.
Over the years, we’ve struggled to be consistent in practicing a Sabbath rhythm. Just as we thought we were getting into a regular, healthy routine something like an extended sickness or a new soccer season…or, you know, the birth of another child…would derail our rhythm. So, we’re starting again by going back to a symbolic act at the start of our weekly sabbath, lighting a candle.
For me, as a mom, in order to be able to truly rest —as much as possible with young kids— this means preparing well. Preparing well actually means doing quite a bit of difficult work. At times it seems counter-intuitive to work, work, work — sometimes in a frenzy — to finally be able to rest and delight.
Our preparation for Sabbath looks like scurrying around an extremely cluttered house, picking up books, clothes, papers, random food bits that should have been dropped only in the kitchen area…since we have a rule of only eating in the kitchen and dining area…except that I have children who don’t always listen and walk around the house humming while eating crackers and dropping crumbs along their path. Do you ever feel as though there are certain statements you say to your kids that you think you’ll be saying forever? I guess training requires repeating the same admonitions over and over and over. Maybe when they’re adults we’ll look back and see some of the fruit of our labors when we see civilized adults making rules of their own…
Anyway…our oldest girls, who are now 11 and 10, are extremely helpful in the process of getting our home organized. One daughter in particular thrives in an orderly environment so she is just as much an advocate of keepings things neat and tidy as we are. (I have to admit here, I’m more inclined to stress tidiness prior to Sabbath than on most other days. I will normally let the house go in favor of doing just about anything else. Otherwise, I feel like I will only have time to do dishes, cook meals, and pick up. This doesn’t feel like a beautiful life to me even if it might appear to others that I have it together if my house is put perfectly in order. Relationship rules the roost for us and that usually means an untidy house!)
But, for us, getting ready for the Sabbath means putting the house back to order and preparing food. Unfortunately, as my husband can attest, it’s a struggle for me to think about planning meals. If I could only point my wand and have a healthy meal appear. But alas, the magic of food appearing hasn’t happened yet. I have a strong desire to eat healthy, but eating healthy seems to mean spending endless hours making your own dressings and condiments, chopping vegetables until your hand hurts, and well, not eating any sugar. We continue to navigate some allergies in our home so this only adds to a bit of struggle when it comes to food.
So, it isn’t restful or Sabbath-esque for me to think about food! But, thankfully, Glenn enjoys cooking! His creativity comes out in the kitchen. He throws a little of this and a little of that into a bubbling pot on the stove and usually comes up with some kind of culinary masterpiece. And for this, I’m grateful. So our Sabbath meals are typically quite nice as Glenn finds it restful to experiment in the kitchen.
Maybe you’re in a phase where you wonder if taking a Sabbath could actually feel restful. I remember the days of having three kids, five and under and feeling as thought the weight of sabbath preparation was entirely on my shoulders. I recently talked to a friend who is a new mom of a young baby. She mentioned feeling like taking a 24 hour Sabbath, as the Bible suggests, was almost impossible considering all the factors and stresses of life in their current situation. But, she said she could take two hours on a weekend day, if her baby napped to find some silence, rest, and reflection. “Can you start small?” Of course, and you don’t have to do it perfectly from the beginning.
I believe the Lord will honor the time we set aside to rest and delight in him even if it’s not an entire day. He asks us to take a Sabbath not only to attend to our relationship with Him, but also to give our whole being– body, mind, and spirit– time to rest. We will have nothing to pour out to others if we aren’t first giving ourselves the gift of Sabbath rest.
“The meaning of the word “sabbath” is “stop, cease, desist, pause, rest.” The first question we need to address when beginning a sabbath pattern is, “What will I cease from?” Only after we have clarified that question can we move on to the second question, “What will I do on the sabbath to nurture my ability to rest in God?” — Lynne Baab
Sabbath rest can look quite different for all of us. For me, a perfect Sabbath would include elements of solitude, reading and reflection, nature, and play with our family. It would mean me ceasing from my regular work during the week such as housework, most cooking, and teaching the kids. Since we live in a fallen world and various life events can interrupt a perfect Sabbath day, I’ll take what I can get.
It’s easy to hear messages from our culture that say we need to focus on getting more, and doing more. I’m consistently asking the Lord to remind me of His words to be grateful in plenty and in little. My temptation is to look for how I can work more to gain more material things. The irony is we can even try to get ‘more’ — rest and reading and renewal— out of a Sabbath, and undermine the spirit of the Sabbath in doing so!
On the Sabbath, I remind myself of who I am as God’s beloved child and of who He is.
There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me more.
Sabbath is a chance to stop and hear the wind blowing through the trees, and to and listen to my sweet child narrating a story. Last Friday, Jane and I spent quite some time playing various card games like Memory and Old Maid. It was a delight to hear her giggle in her efforts to find a way for me to repeatedly get stuck with the Old Maid. It’s possible there are some holy moments waiting for us if we take the time to pay attention.