When I was in Bible College there was a big emphasis on the importance of taking a Sabbath. We were taught, three days for college, three days for church/work, one day of rest. I wasn’t a great student, but I did get that sabbath thing down. Probably did sabbath more than recommended, to the detriment of my studies, which I don’t think was the intended outcome. But if Sabbath was a subject it would have been on track to be one of my best.
Since college I’ve remained pretty good at taking a day off, making sure there is at least one day a week where I’m not doing anything that might be considered work. On those days I don’t do paid work, I don’t do talk prep, I don’t write my books or blog posts. I take a day off.
The problem I have found is that while I am pretty good at the negative aspects of Sabbath (things that I don’t do), I’m not so good at the positive (things to do). I don’t quite know the best things to do to replace the things I’m not doing. I think it’s probably because I’m not thinking about what a sabbath is, only what it is not. I definitely have room to grow in my sabbathing.
One of the things I have always found helpful and important about Sabbath is that it teaches us trust. By not working we’re saying it’s not us who is our provider but God. We’re saying we are not vital to our own provision or success, and we are not vital to whatever goal or institution we serve. “Unless the Lord builds the house the builders labour in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Sabbath says that we trust God as our provider and builder. If done right, it frees us from slavery to work, and idolisation of busyness.
But as I have realised, Sabbath needs to be a positive experience, an is, rather than just an is not. Sabbath has to be about enjoying God and his creation. God built sabbath rest into the scheme of his very good creation. It’s isn’t about just not working, but actively resting. Resting in God and his provision. It’s about the enjoyment of God, his world, and his people. I haven’t been so good at that. Spending your life working for God, it’s hard to take a rest and just enjoy God.
I was talking about this with Em and we both acknowledged that we were not sabbathing in the way we’d like. So we have decided that we will start taking a sabbath together. Not just not working, but actively resting so that we might enjoy time with God and others. Let me tell you our plan. Then I’ll check in again in a few months to let you know how we’re going. (Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the sabbath, so I suspect if we get it right, it’ll be good news).
The Guidelines (not rules):
We are going to take a what I call Jewish Sabbath (I’m not sure if there that’s the technical term) where you rest from sundown on one day to sundown the following day. That’s as opposed to a calendar Sabbath (also not probably not a technical term), from midnight to midnight for one calendar day. Generally, this will be Saturday evening to Sunday evening, but we can be flexible.
Rest from work and study
We’re not going to do money-earning activities or uni study activities. Anything which we may consider pressing, everyday work. However if we find our neighbour’s donkey in a ditch, or someone needing medical attention, we will help them.
Rest from social media
This isn’t because social media is a sin, but it is a distraction, and it stops us from noticing much of the world around us. So goodbye FB, Insta, Bebo, and Tinder.
Rest from TV
TV is our default rest activity. Not turning straight to Netflix to relax will help us be more intentional in how we rest. Probably we’ll just nap. Note that a rest from TV is not a rest from the cinema. I made sure we were clear on that!
Eating with others
We want to make sure that we Sabbath with others. So in our Sabbath rest we will endeavour to find time to have a meal with others. We can enjoy the gifts of God together.
Spending time with God
Obviously, this is important. While we try and make time to spend with God regularly throughout the day, we can have a longer, more relaxed time with God.
Reflecting on God’s word together
Seeing as we’re both trying to Sabbath together, we thought it might be good to make sure we’re reflecting on God’s word together. This might mean that we read our way through a book of the Bible. Perhaps we will read a Christian book. Maybe we’ll watch some Vegetales.
So that’s the plan for Sabbath. These are just guidelines, they’re not rules, and we’re not making moral judgements one way or the other. We’re just hoping to better participate in the rhythms that God made for us and enjoy the rest Christ won for us. We’ll let you know how it goes.
But before I go, do you sabbath? What does Sabbath look like for you? Help me out, we might steal your ideas.