One of the fundamentals of our faith is that we believe God created the world. God created for six days, and on the seventh day, God rested. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, God sent them food to eat, but not on the Sabbath. God tells us over and over and over again how important it is to keep the Sabbath day sacred. So why is it so hard for us to actually do it?
This past Sunday, I worked at my second job at an independent children’s bookstore. I took this job so that I could have fun with children’s books and the people who love them. Perhaps I could rationalize working on a Sunday by saying “it doesn’t feel like work; I love it so.” Nah, that argument won’t work. Vacuuming the rug at the end of the shift reminds me that it’s work.
As hard as we try to get laundry done on Saturday, we invariably end up doing it on Sunday. My husband and daughters go grocery shopping on Sunday. Lately, it’s been getting to me: over and over, we’re breaking a fundamental commandment. Why?
Why is it so hard to NOT work one day per week?
Does the Sabbath have to be on Sunday? Can it be Saturday? or Monday? or some other day?
What did my parents teach me about the Sabbath?
How can I fix this?
Growing up, my parents (read: Mom) had lots of rules about chores. We did chores every day, but Sunday was different. With my dad working every Sunday, I never really thought about it being a day of rest, even though there was usually lots of resting after church. My parents never said, “now kids, it’s the Sabbath, so we don’t work on this day. We rest, like God did.” They led by example, and expected us to get the unspoken messages they often sent. I think it’s safe to say I missed the message.
Does the Sabbath have to be on a Sunday? I don’t have any pithy, theoretical texts to back this up, but I believe that the main concept is to take time for rest for every few days that you work. For some of us, that’s Monday, or Wednesday. I sure wouldn’t want to go to the emergency room and be told, “sorry, it’s the Sabbath, we can’t help you.” With so many faith traditions living communally, it wouldn’t be fair for us to say “Sunday is the Sabbath; everyone else get on board.” I’ve noticed that Saturday is a day that we are least inclined to want to work. We end up feeling guilty about that, and then feel even guiltier when we work on Sunday. Perhaps it’s time to change our mindset about our Sabbath day.
Why is it so hard not to work?
Those dots represent the kronos and kairos time that has elapsed since I typed that question.
Many of us were taught that our worth comes from our work. Not working brings up all sorts of feelings of guilt for me. Too much work means I don’t take good care of myself, and that’s not a great example for my girls. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to better model good self-care so that my girls understand how critically important it is for their overall physical and mental health. Keeping the Sabbath is self-care as we honor and respect the God in us.
I’m determined to get better about keeping the Sabbath. The new school year seems like a great time to realign our week so that we can move closer to truly keeping the Sabbath holy. Here are some ideas from a Forward Movement pamphlet called Keeping Sabbath by The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper that we plan to try:
- If you have two “free” days a week, designate one for errands and personal maintenance, and the other for spiritual leisure. This spiritual leisure could be tennis, yoga, or walking, or it could be sitting, reading, or mindlessly watching TV.
- Custom design your Sabbath practice to fit your job, your family, and your commute. For example, you might even keep Sabbath on your commute. Rest, pray, or listen to music.
- Ritualize your life. Do email at set times in the morning or afternoon—or when you decide—and live free of it the rest of the day. Tell people what you are doing: “You can expect an answer after 4:30.”
If all else fails, find a way to pray:
O God, I know I am worth the time you have given me. Let me savor the great gift of Sabbath and find the paths to peace and grace, even if just for a minute. Amen.
How do you practice keeping Sabbath? What ideas can you share?