tree in middle of water - peaceful

Using My Time Wisely: Sabbath (pt. 2)


Why A Sabbath?

At the same time I was reading the book 168 Hours, I was also reading the book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. It’s a book about spiritual disciplines, like the practices of prayer, solitude, self-examination, and Sabbath. Some books on spiritual disciplines can make you feel guilty for not doing all the practices all of the time, but I appreciated that this one didn’t. It asked you to reflect upon which practices might be most helpful to your spiritual development at the current moment.

When I got to the chapter on Sabbath, I immediately had the thought I always do, which is “who can actually have the time to do a Sabbath these days?” I have been wrestling for years with the idea of reserving one day a week for a Sabbath, but have always felt like there was too much to do to make it a reality.

Back in Bible times, the Sabbath meant that people stopped working from Friday evening until Saturday evening, a full 24 hours. It was a hearkening back to the 7th day of creation when the Bible says God “rested.”

For me, the Sabbath means that I am giving back to God my time, and I am trusting him with it. I trust that I can spend 24 hours not working or checking things off my to-do list, and that everything is still going to be okay. It definitely felt like a discipline because this ended up being a very hard thing to do – as I mentioned in my last post, I already don’t have enough time to get everything I want to accomplish done. Could I really give up one day a week, to just relax and rest?

I decided I wanted to try.

Sacred Rhythms book cover

In her book Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton makes two points about the Sabbath that I thought were critical:

“Sabbath is not solitude – it’s a time for being with family and loved ones”

“Sabbath is a time for whatever delights or replenishes you”

The point of Sabbath is not to focus on all the things you can’t do. It’s to take 24 hours and only do things that bring you energy and joy, to focus on the things that really matter (the Quadrant II things!) It should be a time that you look forward to each week, a whole day of things filled with the purpose of delighting you!

When I thought of Sabbath that way, I desperately wanted it. It’s so easy to feel burned out at the end of each day, and for go-getters like me, it can actually be nearly impossible to force myself to relax. I always find things I could or should be doing, instead of doing something fun or relaxing. And as my last post taught me, I often spent more time on chores and cleaning the house than I did on quality time with my family.

Choosing Our Sabbath Activities

Before trying out a day of Sabbath, I decided our family would need to decide what Sabbath looked like for us. What kinds of things delighted and replenished us?

I knew what didn’t replenish me, I quickly made a list of things to avoid:

  • work
  • email
  • errands
  • chores/cleaning
  • social media
  • t.v.
  • budgeting/other administrative tasks

Then I thought about things that would bring me joy or rest and came up with this list:

  • exercise/walks
  • travel
  • cooking/baking
  • naps
  • reading
  • family outings
  • blogging/writing
  • art/games
  • spending time with friends

I loved the freedom to be able to interpret the concept of Sabbath on an individual level. What is restful and delightful for some, won’t be for others. In general, I wanted our Sabbath to focus on family time activities, as well as personal “me time” activities that I can’t always find time to do during the week.

I wanted to mostly avoid screens during this time, but decided to make a few exceptions to that rule. For example, our Sabbath begins on Friday around 6pm, but that is when we typically have our traditional pizza/movie night. Since it’s something we are doing all together as a family, I decided it can count as a Sabbath activity. For Dean, video games are something he considers delightful, so we decided to allow him time to play, as long as it was something he could enjoy with the whole family.

Once I had set up the ground rules, I realized I was going to have to work a little harder on the days leading up to our Sabbath to make sure we could actually enjoy the day. Normally, we would do laundry on Saturday, so I had to make time to do it earlier in the week. We also usually do grocery pick up on Saturday mornings, and so now we would either have to do it Friday afternoon or wait until Sunday.

Friday afternoon before our first trial Sabbath, I spent a lot of time cleaning the house and putting away clutter. But I was enthusiastic about it. I was ready for a whole day to not worry about cleaning or chores or other boring “adulting” tasks.

The Sabbath Begins

We kicked off our Sabbath watching Star Wars: A New Hope and eating pizza. We put Calvin to bed, and as the evening wrapped up, it didn’t feel that much different from a regular day, except we avoided social media.

I woke up early (around 5am) on Saturday morning, because I like to make time to write while everyone else is still asleep. Calvin woke up earlier than normal, close to 6am, and in my head I thought well, he can go watch t.v. so I can get a little more writing done. Nope! Calvin remembered that t.v. was out, and he was lamenting that fact by saying that there was “nothing to do” and that “everything was boring.” I knew he needed some guidance since this was a transition for us.

We decided to take time to do one of Calvin’s BLANK (Bridging Literacy and Art with NCCIL Knowledge) boxes. This is a monthly box we subscribe to from a local art museum in town. Calvin LOVES art, and he had a fun time making a mini wrapped sculpture, based on the art of Judith Scott.

Later that morning we decided to do a family activity, so we went to the Grace Museum which has a children’s area that Calvin likes. We came home, ate lunch, and then had our usual quiet time (that means Calvin plays alone in his room, it was formerly known as nap time) for 2 hours. During quiet time, I did some reading and worked a little on a Shutterfly book of our most recent Disney World trip.

Even though it could definitely be considered “work,” as a family we spent some time putting together a playground for Calvin in the backyard. (We bought him a playground about a month ago and have been slowly putting it together.) There are about 70 steps in all, and we are a little over halfway! This was an activity that brought Calvin joy, and so we felt like it was a good fit for our Sabbath.

Soon enough, it was time for dinner, and we realized that our Sabbath had come to an end. We had spent a full 24 hours not watching t.v. (except for movie night), being on social media, or doing chores. More importantly, we had spent a lot more time engaged with one another, and I spent more time doing things in my Quadrant II list.

What I Learned

Overall, our family found that we really enjoyed our Sabbath. (Even Calvin!) We didn’t miss social media and t.v. as much as we thought we would. It was actually a nice time to detox from those things.

The main lesson I learned: the world keeps spinning even when I take a Sabbath. Somehow, the laundry still got done for the week. The house still looked fine, despite me avoiding cleaning for a full 24 hours. All those things that seem so urgent, that we feel we have to do… well, maybe they aren’t that important after all.

Another lesson I learned: it was way too easy to become a *Pharisee. I quickly found myself becoming the Pharisee in our household when it came to “obeying” our Sabbath. I was the one to quickly point out when someone was breaking the rules, and I found myself wanting to follow the Sabbath to 100% perfection. But I had lost sight of why we were doing it in the first place. It wasn’t just a list of rules to follow, it was supposed to be a day to enjoy time with family and feel rested for the week ahead. I am embarrassed to admit how quickly I forgot that.

Moving forward, our family plans to continue to have a day of Sabbath together each week. It takes a little extra planning, and we are still adjusting to it, but we feel like it’s a beneficial practice we want to continue. There were definitely times it felt more like a discipline than others – but that’s okay, the times that are hard are opportunities for growing spiritually.

Thanks for reading!

*In the Bible, the Pharisees are a group of Jewish leaders that were essentially known for their strict observance of the law, but their motivation for doing so was all wrong. They didn’t care about following the law because it was the right thing to do, rather they were interested in keeping up appearances and being in positions of authority.

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