Keep the Sabbath

Discipline and diligence will always be prerequisites if we expect to experience the freedom and rest that God intends for us … But as a girl who’s watching this Sabbath principle unshackle the chains from my life more and more every day, I can tell you it’s worth all the effort we expend.

(Priscilla Shirer, Breathe)

Knowing the why of a thing is very different from knowing the how. Great ideas die all the time due to lack of strategy.

On Monday, we laid a groundwork for why sabbath matters. Now I’d like to take a practical turn and look at some ideas on how to begin making this rhythm a regular and vital part of life.

Planning Sabbath

First of all, schedule it on your calendar. Treat this time like you would an important meeting. If taking a whole day off every week is a particularly burdensome concept to you, start smaller. Try two hours a week and steadily work your way up. (But keep your eyes open for how God blesses and uses whatever time you set aside—He has a habit of amplifying our sacrifice and making the rest of our work more fruitful when we follow His command to pause. As you observe Him come through in faithfulness, you’ll gain more courage to pursue one day off out of every seven.)

Also, do everything you can ahead of time to make your sabbath easy and enjoyable to carry out. Plan for any roadblocks that could keep you from entering into this space well. For instance, if there’s a fun craft project I’m hoping to work on, I’ll need to shop for whatever I lack beforehand; otherwise I’ll spend precious sabbath hours searching for items in the store rather than creating with my Creator.

Note: Did you know sabbath can occur on any day of the week? It’s not limited to Sundays (which is great, because for pastoral families like mine, Sunday is actually when the biggest “work” happens around here). Choose the day that makes sense for you—whenever you have the most freedom to get away from your normal patterns of productivity. (I typically take Thursdays.)

Structuring Sabbath

Think of this part as a recipe: you’re going for a unique-to-you mixture of rest (napping, observing nature, reading for fun, etc.), play (painting, biking, putting a puzzle together, etc.), and worship (praying, reading Scripture, singing, etc.). Feeling inspired? List ideas for each of the three categories that especially reflect you, your needs, and your interests. Then it’s as easy as pulling one or two from each, and voila! A ready-made sabbath tailored just for you, with endless variations for the future.

A fun note on the recipe thing: Certain spices completely change a recipe, and adding a theme to your sabbath is an easy way to add interest and variety. Because the beach is my happy place, I might whip up a day that includes a beach-inspired book, prayer with ocean sounds in the background, a nap on a beach towel, and doodling with my feet in a box of sand. See? It doesn’t have to be glamorous to be effective.

If there are voices that tend to drain your soul’s energy, this is the day to minimize their volume. So long, Instagram feed! Farewell, endless sense of obligation! (I’m one auf Wiedersehen short of bursting into “The Sound of Music.” Please stop me.)

One last thing here: Sabbath can be practiced alone (great for introverts) or in tight community (great for extroverts). I’d recommend aiming for a balance of solo sabbaths and family sabbaths if you can pull off including others without it feeling like work. For example, I love wrapping up my time with a date night as a chance for us to pull away from the world together, but running errands around town would kill the replenishment vibe we’re going for.

Implementing Sabbath

Honestly, don’t make sabbath more complicated than it needs to be. The point isn’t to “do it right” but to turn down the machine for a while and enjoy the presence of our Maker. Jesus got into quite a few arguments with the religious leaders because He didn’t follow their rules. His response? “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Resist the pressure to submit to another form of bondage.

With that said, you can feel free to add extra little touches when you like—party hats, a special candle you light only on the sabbath, your most comfortable robe. Anything to create an atmosphere that reminds you this time has been set apart (literally, ‘kept holy,’ ala Exodus 20:8).

Don’t plan yourself crazy. As you begin practicing these life-giving spaces with God, notice how they change over time. Sabbath isn’t meant to be a static, inflexible tyrant but a vibrant component of life to the full that grows with you. Aim for ease and simplicity if all this is new; the best sabbath is one you actually do.

As a closing thought, consider something: The holiday we’re about to celebrate next week, the one with the cross? It purchased an ability to stop working for our well-being. We’re regularly invited into the full-bodied rest of heaven with complete assurance that our Father wants us there. Sabbath is just too good an offer to pass up. So let’s get busy! Selah.

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