I have never really done well with the practice of Sabbath. That spiritual discipline of setting one day aside – typically Sunday for those of us in Canada – to rest from work. Some of my inattention to the Sabbath is the result of working retail jobs where Sunday was just another work day. And if I did have a Sunday off, the day was spent cramming in all the things that I wasn't able to do Monday to Friday.
Kids entered the scene a few years later – tiny humans who, despite my best attempts at dissuading them, insisted on being fed EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
And then they had the audacity to require clean clothes and a safe and tidy home in which to live.
In the hectic season of early parenting, setting aside full days in which to do no work just never seemed to happen. And then as the kids got older I just replaced one kind of busy for another – grocery shopping, emails, getting a jump start on the busy work week – and the pattern of avoiding the Sabbath continued.
To be completely honest with you, I wasn’t very keen on actively pursuing Sabbath. In my mind a day of nothing had all the allure of sitting on a beige couch, staring at a beige wall in a beige room while wearing beige clothing and drinking lukewarm water. Kinda boring.
Recently in my devotions I was reading from Leviticus 23 and saw with fresh perspective God’s instructions to Moses for how to observe the Sabbath. You may be familiar with it: Work six days, rest the seventh. The Bible says that the seventh day is “a Sabbath, a day of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.”
Rather than a day of nothing, God gives us the Sabbath to set out a rhythm for life — work at the tasks to which you have been called, and then take a quiet retreat from those responsibilities. Be a good steward of your time while tending to your work, and then withdraw to be with God and enjoy his mercies.
It’s within the rhythm of “work then withdraw” that we demonstrate our dependence on God and our trust in his care. We remove ourselves from the centre of the universe and dare to believe that the world can get by without us for one entire day. It’s a day where we can be reminded that our hope and strength come from God, and not from the work of our hands. In this “holy convocation” we can come together on Sunday mornings and be at peace without worrying about the myriad of things we still want to get done before the sun sets.
Some of my Sabbath practices include leaving my phone in a different room, and not being afraid to take a bit longer to answer non-essential texts and emails. Looking for ways to be outdoors and away from technology all together is also something I look forward to now that the weather is warmer. But when it comes down to it, those are all just activities that I put on pause, that if I'm not careful I can just slip back into the habit of being too busy for rest. The real Sabbath happens when I remember that I am not just ceasing activities, but rather I’m resting in the Lord and in his sufficiency. For that reason I also try to do my devotions early in the day rather than leaving them until evening, which is my normal practice. Starting the day putting my relationship with God in proper focus is essential to my rhythm of resting in God. I also light some candles around the house, make a pot of tea, and serve it in a china cup. It's small things like these that serve as reminders that I'm home for a while and should not be in a hurry to rush out to the next thing.
How has your view of Sabbath changed over the years? What are your Sabbath practices and what are you putting into place in order to remind yourself of the sufficiency of Christ? I'd love to hear from you - leave a comment or send me an email and let's talk!