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Keeping the Sabbath Holy (and Practical)

     When it comes to the Ten Commandments, I feel like I have some of them pretty covered (like Thou Shalt not Kill,) but there’s one I struggle with on a weekly basis---Keeping a Sabbath day.  If Sabbath was just about going to church, I’d be fine, but Scripture clearly defines the Sabbath as a day of rest. 

     If we were honest, perhaps most women, especially moms, are Fourth Commandment-breakers also.  If you’re like me, you know Scripture commands you to rest, but you struggle to make that reality.  How do we take a day off?  If I eat a meal in my house, it’s because I cooked it and I am cleaning up after it, and we need to eat seven days a week, not six!.  My young kids don’t turn off their need for mom one day a week so that I can relax.  I usually can’t go 15 minutes without hearing, “Mom, can you . . . “ from somewhere in the house.  The daily grind of life doesn’t take a break, so I find myself keeping up the frenzied pace of every other day of the week.

     But then, I wonder—why do I think that Sabbaths were only for times past?  Do I think that people in the past didn’t have important things to do like I do today?  It seems like there must be a way to make a Sabbath day relevant and practical in my modern life.

Why Does a Sabbath Matter?

     God established a day of rest at Creation: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.   And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2-3 ,NIV).  

     Because God set the pattern of a day of rest at creation, it precedes the Law.  Sometimes people toss out Old Testament Law by saying that we no longer have to follow these commands because of the New Covenant in Christ.  Yet, the Sabbath day was set apart and made holy long before the Ten Commandments and the institution of Mosaic law. 

     By including the Sabbath as part of the Ten Commandments, however, God emphasized its importance and defined it as a day of rest:    "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV).

     In the New Testament, Jesus showed that the Sabbath is for our benefit and not for God’s.  God didn’t create some arbitrary law that required us to sit around doing nothing except “spiritual” things all day.  It’s not meant to be a burdensome day that heaps requirements on us.  Instead, when challenged about healing on the Sabbath and allowing his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath, Jesus responded:  "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NIV) and “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12, NIV).  It’s not a day to get caught up in rules about what we can and cannot do.  It’s about rest and worship, not burdensome regulations.

The Sabbath Perspective

     In his book, I Am Not, But I Know I Am, Louie Giglio writes about Sabbath rest as more than just taking a nap one day a week.  It is instead “a state of mind, a deep-seated belief that God is the creator and sustainer of all things—an acknowledgement that He is sufficient and that He can be trusted” (103).  This means that the Sabbath is for our benefit because it forces us to keep a proper perspective on our importance in the universe. 

     We can get so caught up in our frenzied lives that we think the universe can’t function without our intense involvement for even one day of the week.   Technology in particular has made us constantly accessible to work and other demands and we rush to check each beep of the pager, answer every phone call, and respond to every email.  Since I work at home, I frequently check the work flow on my Sabbath to make sure they don’t “need” my help---as if my one day off will create a crisis!

     Yet, God created the entire universe in six days!!  He can handle the stress and cares of the world just fine and sometimes it takes a Sabbath to remind us that we aren’t the center of this universe, but God is.   Louie Giglio continues in his book: “For when we tirelessly toil, as though that’s what it takes to keep our ship afloat, we steal God’s glory, elevating ourselves as sole providers and sustainers of all we have and are.  By refusing to slow down and bring things to a halt we are telling God that He is not enough for us” (123).  This, Giglio argues, is why Sabbath and worship go together—because our very act of keeping the Sabbath involves glorifying God and exalting Him to the rightful place as head of our lives.

What Makes Rest so Difficult?

     It’s difficult for me to rest partly because of pride.  It is hard to admit that the world doesn’t need my involvement in order to function.  Sometimes I cling to busyness and even reject offers of help because I take pride in being the “superwoman” who can do all these things by myself.  Busyness makes me look and feel important and needed.

     Similarly, it’s hard to give up control.  Many women reject help because “it’s easier to just do things myself” or “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”  That means that we carry the burdens all on our own shoulders and that leaves very little time for enjoying rest, relaxation, hobbies, or relationships.

     I also feel guilty for resting.  It seems like I am always surrounded by things that need to be done, so rest feels frivolous.   For someone like me, keeping an official Sabbath gives me permission to rest and validates my rest.  It reminds me that reading a book instead of cleaning one day a week isn’t laziness; it’s an act of worship.   Katie Brazelton, in her book Praying for Purpose for Women, writes: “Sometimes rest or play is the holiest of choices.  A balance of being and doing is the key, and that’s what I’m trying to learn.  Even Jesus, as busy as he was, took time to be alone in prayer with his Father and attend a wedding celebration!” (172).

    Resting can also be embarrassing in our stress and success-driven culture!  I’ve seen many women engage in Busyness Battles with each other.   We ask each other what seems like such a simple question, such as “What have you been up to lately?” or “Have you been busy?”  Then, like a Wild West shootout, we breathlessly list our every activity in an effort to “out-busy” the other woman.  The prize?  The personal pride that we are more stressed than the woman we are talking to.  Don’t be embarrassed to concede defeat and say, “Well, I’ve been focusing on de-stressing. On Sunday, I watched a movie with my family and then read some of my book.” You may have lost the shoot-out, but who wants the title of “Most Stressed Woman” anyway?  Instead, let’s make intimacy with God, right relationships with Him and others, and physical, spiritual, and mental health the result of our Sabbath rest.

Making a Sabbath Day Practical

    Here are some suggestions on how to make a Sabbath day work for you.  Keep in mind that every woman is different.  What is relaxing for you, may be a chore for me!  Focus on keeping the day set apart and holy by resting and refreshing your spirit and keep it personally tailored for your personality and life.

If you don’t feel rested at church, then take time to rest on another day, but don’t forsake church for your bed!

  • Do leftovers, frozen pizza, delivery or even eat out as your budget and tastes demand to give yourself a break from cooking and from kitchen clean-up!
  • Use paper plates instead of dishes you need to wash for Sunday dinner.
  • If cooking is relaxing for you, have a big family dinner once a week as part of your Sabbath.
  • Take a technology time-off.  No e-mail, Facebook, cell phone, pager, etc. for the day.
  • Get outside.  If being inside is too much temptation to work or clean, go to a park, the mall, or somewhere else where you don’t have access to work.
  • Take a nap!
  • If you feel like you go somewhere every day of the week, take a day to stay at home!
  • Periodically go for a personal retreat, whether for an afternoon, a day, or a weekend.  Get away with your journal, Bible and meet with God in quiet.
  • Allow yourself to have a hobby of your choice—sew, read, learn the piano, garden, paint.  Part of having a hobby is enjoying the art of creation and thereby connecting with our Creator God.  A hobby itself can be an act of worship. 
  • Treat yourself to something special.  I allow myself to have that soda or to eat chocolate without counting the pieces one day a week.  It’s such a small thing to look forward to, but it’s a treat nonetheless!
  • Enjoy the aesthetic: Nothing feeds my soul like beauty.  So, a trip to an art gallery or a botanical garden or just sitting outside and enjoying God’s creative beauty refreshes me.
  • Watch a movie.
  • Have a family night with popcorn or ice cream sundaes and board games.
  • Make your Sabbath a no-chore day.  You may need to do some basic house care for your own sanity, but avoid laundry, mopping, and other big chores one day a week. 
  • Take a Mom time-out.  Even young kids can understand this basic idea.  You can even set a timer and say, “Mom is taking a break until the timer goes off.  Unless it’s an emergency (you may need to define emergency!), I’m unavailable.
  • Take an extended quiet time.  Weekdays can be rushed and hectic, leaving only a few minutes for a quick devotion and prayer.  An extended time with the Lord may be revive your soul for the rest of the week.
  • Here’s a formula from this website: http://www.wellgroundedlife.com/2009/05/15/a-day-of-rest/:  Try adding and subtracting one thing from each Sabbath until you’ve found the balance of rest that works for you.  That means subtracting one chore or task for 24 hours a week (like email, paying bills, etc.).  Then, replace that with one refreshing, relaxing and purposefully soul-feeding activity like a morning walk, a nap, time with a good book, etc.


Copyright © 2008-2015 Heather King

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2011-01-29 13:52:27
        - ROY

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