One in Seven: A Series on the Sabbath // part 3: How Does the sabbath look practically?

 
A special thanks to Kelly Kaufman for any photos you see in this series. 

A special thanks to Kelly Kaufman for any photos you see in this series. 

INTRODUCTION

One in Seven is a 3-part series that explores the "what", "why" and "how" of God's design for the Sabbath, a day of life-giving rest. The essays in this series are meant to be an overview, are not in any way exhaustive and do not speak on all aspects of the Sabbath rest. The words you will read have been written through much prayer and are aimed at inviting you, the reader, to consider the Sabbath. My hope is that they stir your spirit, encouraging you to pray and reflect on the significance of entering this weekly, rhythmic, life-giving rest God has prepared for you. The Bible, A.J Swoboda's book Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in A Nonstop World, and my personal experiences are the primary resources used to support the thoughts presented in this series. I strongly encourage you to study the scriptures concerning the Sabbath on your own as well as read Subversive Sabbath for a deeper understanding of the topic. With that being said, I am humbled and overjoyed that you would take the time to read this series which I have felt compelled and called to write. I pray you are encouraged in Christ.

 -Sarah


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Now that we've looked at what the Sabbath is and why it is life-giving, let's bring things down to earth, where the rubber meets the road. It's time to talk about how the Sabbath might look on a practical level in our lives. In this final installament of the series, I  put forth some ideas and answer some questions to help you determine how this day of rest might look for you. 

If you have been following along for the entirety of this series, you may have a desire to enter the Sabbath, but you may also have lots of questions swirling around in your mind about where to even start. Maybe you’re wondering what a full day of Sabbath rest really looks like. What things should you do? What things shouldn't you do? Well, it may relieve you to know that there isn't a list of rules I'm going to lay out for you. That’s not what the Sabbath is about. It's not about following rules. It’s about receiving and entering God's gift and rhythm of rest. It's about resting from our work and resting to and in God— and the reality is, that is going to look different for different people.  

What it all boils down to is this foundational question: "Is the activity in question life-giving, or is it life-taking?”  

You are going to need to pray over and ponder that question for yourself and for your family. Take an activity and ask, "...does it bring us life, rest, hope, wholeness? Or does it drain us, pour us out, stress us out or load us down?" (1). The answer to this question will flesh itself out differently for different individuals. For someone who does physical labor all week, laying down and taking a nap might be a part of their Sabbath. For the person who sits behind a desk 40+ hours a week, going for a run, hike or bike ride might be an activity on their Sabbath. For one person, it might mean spending time in fellowship with members from their community. For another it might mean being alone to read and contemplate in silence. These differences will be present even within a single family unit, and it is important to come together and determine what Sabbath rest would look like collectively and hear the desires of each member within the family. There will be some give and take involved, but there is joy in that. The bottom line is choosing to engage in activities that bring life, rest and wholeness, and saying no to those that involve work, toil, and productivity for productivity's sake.  

In order for you to be able to properly enjoy the Sabbath you are going to need to prepare for it. This is evidenced in scripture. In Exodus we see that God provided manna, or bread, for the people of Israel when they were in the wilderness. They were to do their work and collect enough manna each day for that day alone. But when it came to the sixth day, they were to gather twice as much bread (Exodus 16:22). They were to collect enough for both the sixth and the seventh day. 

"'This is what the Lord has commanded: Tomorrow is the day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning."

Exodus 16:23

God told the Israelites to prepare for the Sabbath so that they might rest. The sixth day, the day before the onset of Shabbat (Sabbath) came to be called the day of Preparation (Mark 15:42; Lue 23:54)  So then, the fact remains, in order to keep the Sabbath holy and set apart, intentional preparation is necessary.  

What does this look like for us today? We need to prepare things ahead of time so that we can keep the Sabbath set apart from the rest of the week. If we do not prepare, needs will arise that could have been taken care of earlier in the week, and we will be mentally burdened because of it. Previously in this series, we discussed the fact that we can enter the Sabbath even when our to-do lists are far from done—that the Sabbath is not a reward for the work being finished. That is completely true, but it does not negate the fact that we have a responsibility to exercise care by putting in a little extra effort ahead of time so that our Sabbath day can be free from work. 

Before your Sabbath, take a day of preparation. Get some cleaning around the home. Send off the pressing emails. Make extra food so you can have leftovers for easy meals. Have paper plates on hand so you don't have to do as many dishes. Plan easy finger foods for a picnic dinner. Fill the car up with gas. Go grocery shopping. What things can you do to make an intentional effort to prepare for your Sabbath? 

With that, I want to give you a glimpse in to the Everest Family Sabbath. We Observe Sabbath on Sunday, the first day of my husbands "weekend" and the one day were we are both consistently off from work:  

 

Life-giving Sabbath Yes’s: Some we do every week and others are only occasional.

 

-Corporate worship and Bible study with our church community

- Gathering together with friends for a meal or outdoor activity.

- Quality family time

- Afternoon walks

-Yummy food

-Sitting out in the yard reading, drinking coffee and talking.

-Naps all around 

-Playing a game  

-Sometimes watching a movie or show together (within reason)

- Playing guitar and singing while the baby dances and plays with toys.

- Phone call or FaceTime to family or friends who live far away. (we usually only have one phone on so that we can be contacted in case of emergency)

 

Life-Taking Sabbath no's: 

 

- Checking email, going on social media, online shopping (really no screens aside from the occasional movie together)

-  running errands

- doing one of our traditional week day workouts

- household chores 

- talking about finances and budgeting

- mulling over work, blog, to-do list items. 

 - returning non-urgent text messages (it's easy to be tied to a phone when you feel the need to respond). 

 - accepting every invitation to hang out, meet up etc. 

 

With this, please know that I am providing you with some ideas, not a template to follow. These are things that are life-giving and life-taking for our family in this season of our lives. The way in which we practically observe the Sabbath will, most likely, undergo changes. That's okay and even good. It will allow for us to not fall into legalism and allow Christ to truly be the Lord of the Sabbath rather than our ideals. You will need to pray, assess and learn, sometimes even by trial and error, what falls in to the life-giving and life-taking categories for you personally in your current season.

Two important things are to remember are:

1. "The question is not always what we are doing, but what we are ceasing from doing." 

2. "The pressing issue is the purpose behind the activity." (1)

 

At this point, I want to touch on a few important notes:

1. Choosing to observe the Sabbath may feel uncomfortable, maybe even difficult, at first.

In the previous installation, I talked about why the Sabbath is life-giving in that it breaks us away from the pattern of this world and puts us under submission to God and His design for our work and rest. It is a practical and powerful tool that can be used to keep us from conforming to the world, and allow us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds into the way God has created and called us to live. That is an amazing truth, but it comes with discomfort. There will be things that need to be uprooted and stripped away that have provided comfort for for far too long. Schedules will need to be shifted around, and "no's" will have to be said to things that were previously "yes's" without a second thought. The reality is, setting boundaries and saying no to things is an exercise in growing in humility. We cannot do all and be all. Boundaries are necessary for our well-bing, and they also point us to our limitless God. "At times, it’s essential to say no to others [other things] to be present with God. Sabbath-keepers make for the best kinds of friends because they have come to humbly identify their own boundaries and can honor other's boundaries" (1). Slowing down and putting certain boundaries in place may feel limiting and aimless at first—but please know that, in doing so, you are revealing valuable margin in your life where God can speak to you and breath new life into areas that you didn't know were suffocating

 

2. Don't expect “perfection"; allow for a learning curve. 

It's going to take time to realize what aspects will and should be a part of your Sabbath day and those that should not.  For my little family, we have found that, almost on a weekly basis, we are tweaking things, realizing what is life-giving for us and what is not. We have drawn and erased different boundary lines as we have learned and grown in our understanding of this day and what Sabbath rest looks like for us—and we are still learning. For example, I used to somehow always end up with bare cupboards on Saturday night and on Sunday I would go grocery shopping. It felt like I needed to do it. In reality, it was a lack of preparation on my part. But, for a while, I justified it. I viewed it as a break from the duties of motherhood because I would go by myself and have some alone time, sometimes I would even invite a friend and we would grab a coffee while we were out getting our groceries. I thought it was life-giving, because part of it was. Being alone or having some time with a friend was indeed enjoyable and restful. But coupled with grocery shopping, focusing on meal planning, keeping within our budget, loading and unloading groceries, etc. was all so draining for me. I was trying to force this productive task into something that it wasn't — true, life-giving rest. So, we nixed it. It should have never been a Sabbath activity for us, but it took some error on my part to realize it and heed the conviction I felt. I'm saying this so you don't get discouraged. It will probably take some time to figure things out and that's okay. God gives grace in this and He knows that sometimes we have to learn, even through some mistakes, how to properly enter the rest he has prepared for us. Again, it is important to always remember that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" - Mark 2:27.  If you are viewing the Sabbath as a burden rather than a gift, something is off. 

 

3. Your Sabbath does not have to be on Sunday. 

Traditionally the Sabbath was actually on Saturday. Regardless, we do not live in Jewish culture. Ideally we would all be able to Sabbath the same day, but that is just not the culture we live in. We don't all have jobs where our days off fall on the weekend. In fact, some of us have days off that change from week to week. So, no, your Sabbath day does not have to be Sunday. Look at your schedule and determine which day it could be for you. If you are someone whose work schedule changes each week. You might have to make the effort each week to see where you have your days off and determine which will be your Sabbath. It is important to remember that, "Most importantly Jesus himself, not only the day, is our Sabbath. As the Lord of the Sabbath, he gives us a day to rest. But he is the source of our Sabbath rest, not the day itself. We should be centering on who our Sabbath is rather than when we Sabbath" (1). With Christ as the source of our rest, we want to recognize it by choosing to live within God's design for the human work and rest relationship. One in Seven. Six days of work and one day of set apart, life-giving Sabbath rest. 

 

4. The Sabbath will not be and is not intended to be "the perfect day". 

If we enter the Sabbath thinking we are entering the garden of Eden before the fall, we are going to be sorely disappointed. The Sabbath is not the one day of our week where we are free from any and all effects of a fallen world. Furthermore, It is not a day void of responsibility. It is not about self-indulgence nor an excuse to be lazy. It is not about self. If we go in thinking only about ourselves and our ideals, we are missing the point. Resting to and in God doesn't mean we will experience a day free of responsibility, sin, or even trials. 

On the Sabbath, I am still a wife. I am going into the Sabbath day with my other half in mind. Sometimes we are selfish, and we want what we want. But we must both enter our Sabbath asking: What is on his/her heart? What are his/her desires for the day even if they are in conflict with mine? We must come together, communicate and reconcile those things so that our marriage might even be strengthened in light of the manner in which we observe the Sabbath.  

On the Sabbath, I'm still a mother. The mother of a one-year-old little boy. On the Sabbath I still need to tend to his needs. Feed him, change him,  and deal with short naps or fussiness. Much of this comprises what I would call my "work" during the week. So, how then can I truly rest if I still have to tend to these responsibilities? Jewish culture was much more of a community oriented/communal living type of culture. People truly did life together in a manner in which many of us cannot fully, or even partially understand in our own experience because of the culture in which we grew up. It is likely that families had much more help tending to and caring for children in that time period in general and specifically on the Sabbath. It was very much a community experience. Today, many of us, including myself, live far away from family who would normally be the go-to's for help with our child. If you find yourself in a similar boat, my suggestion would be this: If you are the primary caretaker of your child(ren), incorporate aspects into your Sabbath that switch things up and break you away from the normal childcare routine. Maybe it means you do a picnic so the high chair doesn't need to be cleaned out again. Maybe it means the spouse is on baby duty for an hour so you can have a little time away. Sometimes it may mean a play date with friends. I'm still learning in this area. But, one thing I have experienced is that in growing deeper in community with other believers and even beginning to see other friends start to observe the Sabbath, we are able to help one another in this aspect of observing the Sabbath with little ones in tow. 

All of that to say that I really do believe that as we choose to observe the Sabbath, prioritizing a day to be set-apart for divine, life-giving rest, that God will honor that. Undoubtedly there will be days where we are physically ill, or just emotionally and spiritually down. Frustrations may arise and mishaps may occur. But that is just part of living in a fallen world. In observing the Sabbath, we are getting a glimpse into eternal, heavenly rest, but we aren't there just yet. Our Sabbath may not follow all of our ideals, but it doesn't mean that we cannot experience the rest that only God can give. In fact, the very reality that we will have bumps throughout our Sabbath experience points us even more to the eternal Sabbath rest that awaits us. Don't get discouraged. Rather, be encouraged knowing that no matter what, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and this day was created for you.

So there you have it, my friends.  An overview on the what, why and how of the Sabbath. This rest is not antiquated nor legalistic, but a precious gift available for us TODAY. The desperate prayer of my heart throughout the many hours of writing this series has been that through learning about the Sabbath, you might be drawn to the heart of God and sit in awe of who He is. A loving Creator and Savior who set the one in seven rhythm of rest in motion. A God who invites us to take a whole day every week to stop, rest and delight in Him and the life He has given. A God who finished the ultimate work through the cross of Christ on our behalf, that we might have a taste of the fullness of rest to come in observing the Sabbath.

Don't just learn about the Sabbath— enter it, experience it and enjoy it. 

In view of God's mercy,

Sarah

 

REFERENCES:

(1) - Subversive Sabbath- The Surprising Power Of Rest In A Nonstop World. By A.J Swoboda