I think Sabbath can be an intimidating word. It’s heavy with religious tradition and has been around long enough to have many misconceptions attached to it. But at its core is a simple yet revolutionary concept to many Americans (and others in fast-paced, performance-centered cultures): rest.
Followers of Christianity and Judaism get this concept from Genesis. God created the world and then set aside a specific, intentional time (the seventh day) for rest. Later, this becomes a huge debate between Jewish followers who wonder what exactly they can and cannot do on this special day. Jesus shows up and, in a typical Jesus move, tries to tell them that they’re missing the point.
I think we’re still missing that point. We all know we need rest, but building it into our everyday lives can be difficult. We stay up late watching TV and then try to get up early to hit the gym before work. We stay late at the office, pick up extra weekend shifts when we can, and cram every moment not at work with errands, chores, and as much fun as we can handle with what little energy we have left.
I reject this harried lifestyle, even though I partially live it (I’m working on it!). The following are three characteristics to consider as we attempt to embrace Sabbath a bit more in our lives, whether we consider ourselves ‘religious’ or not.
- Individually – Your Sabbath should be just that – your’s. Everyone has preferences for how they best rest. Some may want to be alone, but others may rather rest with a partner, or even as a family. Some may want to lounge in their PJs all day, whereas others may want to head to the park to ‘play’ or picnic. It’s not so much what you do (or don’t do!) as much as that you feel rejuvenated.
- In Increments – While I really need a full day of rest pretty regularly, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of rest if you don’t have an entire day to spare. Even just a few moments of closing your eyes and breathing deeply at work can help you feel more at ease. Find whatever time you can – whether it’s five minutes or two hours – to begin enjoying periods of rest.
- Intentionally – For most of us, beautiful chucks of nothing are not going to magically appear in our schedules (as much as we may wish they would!). Reaching towards Sabbath may initially involve a bit of work and planning on our part. I think saying no plays a big role; that may even mean saying no to a fun event on a weekend that is already filled with plans. Know your rest needs, and don’t be afraid to actively pursue creating space in your life! (Sounds like this goes back to boundaries…)
Do you have Sabbath in your life? If so, what does it look like? If not, how can you make it happen?
(If you’re interested in this subject, I highly recommend Lauren Winner’s book Mudhouse Sabbath. Only one chapter covers this specific topic, but the others are very interesting, as well.)