I’ve had this blog drafted for over a year. Every time I go to click “publish,” the more time has passed since truly implementing this in my life, the more I learn and the more I feel like a novice regarding Sabbath.
So I’ll start with this: By nature, I stink at the Sabbath. I’m actually the worst at it. I despise being sedentary and even more when I’m told I NEED to rest. The fight is strong in me because more often than not, my productivity plate looks like a kid’s at a buffet.
I push and then push some more, until I can’t go another degree and then my body chooses a Sabbath for me. Recently when this happens, I just shake my head. I know the Lord has allowed this to be more of a refining tool time and time again. So much so, that if I was graded on this, I would still be in the failing letter range. So as you read on, I hope you don’t think I’ve arrived. Rather, this has been a journey for me out of a season that our family so desperately needed it. Thank goodness God is loving and patient because regardless of how well I perform, these words remain:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11
Two years ago, our globe went through a pandemic. I could see the Lord start to work on my heart and mind then. Being in ministry for the last thirteen years, Sundays are work days and anything but rest. I was listening to a Sermon series on Sabbath and for the first time in a long time, I felt like everything I knew about Sabbath and my slave driven nature to productivity was shattered into a million pieces.
I know God allowed that pastors words in his sermon series to change my routine, scheduling, and to humble me beyond belief. Shortly after, my friend Andrea challenged me to read this book. The conviction and fire it put in my soul was literally life changing and very freeing for me— but it came with a cost, and major internal work. I had to destroy the lie that getting things accomplished was where I found my worth. I had to demolish the stronghold that a tidy house gave me more peace than His red letter words. This doesn’t mean I stopped cleaning, don’t get me wrong, I love organization and cleanliness. But for too long, I was placing that satisfaction ahead of being content in the spaces where He was calling me to be present and to worship His goodness, even in my lack of strength and ability.
What does Scripture say about the Sabbath?
Sabbath is mentioned over 172 times in Scripture. I would dare to say if it’s mentioned that many times, it’s worth studying and worth implementing as a discipline. What really got my attention is when I was reading Scripture through my daily studies, I saw correlations of consequences for those who don’t practice Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:27, Nehemiah 13:18, Ezekiel 20:12-13). I’ve read these passages countless times and yet until 2020, I never REALLY let them marinate in my soul.
God gave us the Sabbath as a gift, not a punishment. But when we don’t take the time to dwell, it can wreak havoc on the body, mind and soul. This is what Jesus says in the book of Matthew 11: 28-30: Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
He says in the passage above to learn from Him, that we will find rest for ourselves, but in and through Him. Not in a bubble bath, not in a jog, not in self care. Those things can bring peace and comfort, but they aren’t lasting.
And if that’s not enough it says in Luke, Jesus took time to rest and enjoy the presence of God:
Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed. Luke 5:16
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2: 23-27
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a]31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Lately, as a reminder, I have inscribed this Hebrew word in my planner: nuakh. This means to “dwell” or “settle.” I needed a space for this, a constant reminder, to practice this line item word just as much as I need to eat or be reminded to workout.
Shabbat- How it started
A routine that propelled Sabbath for me. I knew if I created a tradition, something to look forward to each week, this would be the beginning of a routine shift. The driving force behind this routine is that we wanted to teach our children, to disciple them in the understanding of the Sabbath. As believers, we try to live our life out of obedience and James and I wanted a tradition they could cling tight to long after the days where they were beyond my roof (uhhh, typing this hurt). So while the world stopped, we started our Shabbat evening routine.
Our week is built around our Sabbath. We don’t squeeze it in, we try to squeeze in everything around it. We begin our Sabbath with our Shabbat dinner. We have a playlist, we make a special meal, we light candles, get out fancy plates and silverware and linens and turn the lights down low. We begin by praying over each child individually. It changes weekly but the theme remains. Following the prayer and the meal, the girls usually get a special dessert and then we do something FUN (that requires minimal effort). As we approach our time of Sabbath, I try to make food ahead so that I’m prepared to rest and dwell.
While I used to think Sabbath meant to just lay there, it actually allows a lot of creativity. My job is usually people and office related. So the Sabbath provides opportunity to get away, be secluded and work with my hands on a project or a craft. It fosters freedom from my phone, email, or the urge to feel like I need to be productive. By having this weekly tradition, the people we know love that while we may have to miss out– they know/understand why. I used to have guilt by turning my phone off in case there was a need but My Heavenly Father knew best and I’m honoring Him first and foremost. I need to recharge, restore and take time to be in a space of gratitude going forward in my routine. For then, when I come back, I’m better and rested to conquer whatever lies in front of me.
And if the guilt does creep in, I remember God rested on the seventh day in Genesis 2: 2-3:
By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it Holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
God didn’t need a Sabbath and maybe Jesus didn’t need it but they both took time to model it. We as believers need it. We need it to honor God and our covenant with Him, we need it to restore motivation and drive from doing the mundane and remember our purpose. We can’t run well, if we don’t rest well. The Sabbath reminds us of our eternal purpose and shifts our focus to the one who is the Creator of all. And I’ve learned that He can accomplish far more in 6 days than I ever could in 7.
So as the school year is gearing up, sports are beginning and you’re being pulled in a million directions, I was wondering…
How are you choosing to dwell, to settle and worship? I’d love to hear your ideas or input as I yearn to grow in this discipline. I’ve included a gallery with some of my favorite Shabbat moments.