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.

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The Busiest I’ll Ever Be…

Well friends, I am just about done with my first semester of grad school! I survived! (Though the online group project just about killed me…)

I have my last assignment due next Tuesday and then I get a three-week break until summer courses start! Those three weeks are going to be so amazing, I am already feeling less stressed now that most of my assignments are done!

I have to say, this is the busiest I have ever been in my life – I keep thinking at some point in my life the level of busy-ness will taper out, but so far that has not been my experience. When I was in college, I thought I was busy – and I couldn’t wait to graduate so I could be less busy.

While post-college life had less assignments and homework (until now), it did not prove to be less busy. Once I started teaching, I had never felt so busy or worked as hard! My first year teaching 2nd grade, I would spend hours and hours at home grading papers, I was tired all the time, I could never keep up!

Fast forward a few years to having a baby – I didn’t work during the first year of Calvin’s life, but I can assure you I felt like this would surely be the busiest and tiredest I would ever feel! Well… I was wrong yet again.

Here I am, working full-time, taking 6 graduate hours, and balancing life with a husband and almost-two year old… and despite being wrong in the past, I have convinced myself that surely THIS will be the busiest I will ever be in my life!

Is anyone else’s life panning out this way? Do you find yourself just waiting and looking forward to the times when you aren’t busy? Do you ever wish the next few weeks or months were already over? Do you try to catch your breath in the few unplanned hours or minutes of each week before plowing full steam ahead into the next one?

We recently had a reunion with our Re-Engage group- we hosted dinner at our house. (See my previous post about our Re-Engage experience.) We decided to go around and have every couple share how things were going in their marriage, post-Re-Engage. Almost every single person talked about how busy things were, and for some of us, we really noticed a negative effect on our marriages. I know for me, being so busy with school and work, I have certainly felt like I can’t find the time to do the things that were so strengthening to our marriage – things that we did while participating in Re-Engage. It’s hard to sincerely devote yourself to very many things, and as typically happens, sometimes we forsake important things (marriage, family, health) for urgent things (work, deadlines, homework.)

At that dinner we also discussed the concept of Sabbath – we discussed how hard it is these days to even take a few hours off to relax, and devoting an entire day to rest seemed practically impossible! It really got me thinking thought about why God required his people to take a Sabbath. I think sometimes we convince ourselves that the concept of a Sabbath is old and outdated, and that back then people didn’t have so many demands on their time like we do … but I think that is a myth. I think it’s a cop-out to not feel guilty for our busy-ness and to justify it by saying that’s just how our culture is.

I think God knows that being too busy hurts us – it hurts our relationships, our marriages, our families, our health even! Stress from being too busy can sometimes consume us – it makes us less patient, less Christ-like. We focus on the urgent and forget to take care of what’s most important – we get distracted. When I feel overwhelmed with busy-ness, I definitely don’t take care of myself the way I should – I don’t meditate, I don’t exercise, I don’t take time to pray or be with God.

I recognize all this, yet I feel so conflicted about how I could be less busy. I don’t want to give up my hobbies or time with friends – I don’t want to stop working or quit on grad school – I don’t want to give up being involved at my church when I feel called to do so. So what can I do to be less busy? What is God calling me to give up in my life so I can nurture the things in my life that are really important?

Today after work, I decided to try to find a few verses in the bible about busy-ness and here’s a few that stuck out to me:

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 13:22 (Jesus explaining the parable of the Sower) – The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

I also found a great article online titled, “Busyness Is Not a Spiritual Gift.” It is a great read and really articulated some of the things I had been thinking about nicely. 

I think the next steps for me will be to really sort out my priorities and decide what is most important – then take a good look at my actions to see if they align with those priorities. As the article mentions, God might want me to get rid of some of the things that I really love, and even some things that are good, which is why this is so hard. But I think it comes down to having faith that God knows what is best, and that seeking Him first really will let the other things in my life fall into place.

There’s so much more I could say about this, but I will leave it at that for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you want to share.