Are You Tired? Burned Out? Try Practicing This...
It’s been a solid two months since I felt the urge to write. In my last blog post, I wrote about my 2019 word for the year - rest. I can honestly say the word “rest” has been deeply pressed on my heart and affirmed over and over again these last two months. One of the ways I feel called to rest this year is by figuring out what it looks like for me to honor the Sabbath. This last week, I finally felt a nudge to write and share about how it’s been going, where I’m currently at, and what I’ve learned so far.
How it’s been going…
When I first realized that I was being called to honor the Sabbath, I didn’t exactly know what it would look like. The only thing I knew about Sabbath was that it’s a day without work. I felt like Sundays made the most sense; I don’t have any hard commitments that day. I then figured anything that feels like “work” would have to be set aside. For me, that means no laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, emailing, or planning.
This went really well the first two Sundays of the new year. Then at about the third week, I realized I had dirty laundry spilling out of my closet, our house was a mess, and we had no food in the fridge. Since I wasn’t doing chores or running errands on Sunday like I normally would, I wasn’t doing them - period. Shay, of course, had no issues with this. I, however, was stressed out.
I recognized about a month into the new year that to Sabbath “well” I needed to do a significant amount of Sabbath prep throughout the week. This has meant doing laundry on week nights, cleaning more regularly, and either grocery shopping on Friday or getting groceries delivered (hellooooo 2019 - grocery delivery is where it’s at.) I’ve also had to accept that I won’t always finish my “to-do” list before Sunday – and that’s ok.
Where I’m currently at…
I've finally gotten into a good rhythm. My Sabbath starts on Sunday morning. I have my phone plugged in on the other side of the room (less temptation to grab for it first thing when I wake) and no alarm set. Whatever time I wake up dictates which church service I go to. If sleep limits me from physically attending church, then I’ll live-stream service from my living room (not ideal, but I’ll let it happen if my body needs the rest). I then spend most of the day reading and journaling. I’ll usually light candles or have a fire going. I may grab coffee with a friend, but generally, I am not putting things on my calendar for Sunday. I may take Gatsby for a leisurely walk and get some fresh air. Then Shay and I usually have pizza for dinner, some adult beverages, and catch up on TV in the evening. The entire day (sun up to sun down) my phone is in my bedroom, out of sight. I’m reachable if people need me, but I’m not tied to my phone, and I’m totally off of social media/email.
What I’ve learned…
It’s easy for me to slip into a legalistic mindset and create hard and fast rules for myself about what I should and shouldn’t do (it’s probably my Catholic roots tugging at me every so often). Because of this, I decided to dig into what the Bible actually tells us about Sabbath… and I was reminded and also surprised at what I found.
Most people identify Sabbath as one of the 10 commandments in the Old Testament, which says:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 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. 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)
Then in the New Testament Jesus came along and more or less shook up the 10 Commandments, narrowed it down to two and said “Love God and love people”. (Matthew 22:36-40) Jesus wasn’t about hard and fast rules. In fact, he criticized religious leaders of that time for looking at faith as a checklist of things instead of a way of life. Jesus regularly broke Sabbath “laws”, usually for performing miracles and healing people - which was high on the list of things that actually triggered the Pharisees to plot and kill Jesus. This is where my jaw hit the floor. I had forgotten this piece of the story. And I had never realized that people were pissed off that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, which ironically, is what we’re all in need of.
I’ve learned that because of our new covenant with Jesus, a lot of Christians believe the Sabbath no longer applies. The 10 Commandments are part of the Old Testament, we have new life and grace through Jesus in the New Testament. But that’s just like us to swing hard in the other direction and miss the point.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” - Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after these verses, Matthew goes right into two stories about how Jesus challenges Sabbath laws (12:1-14). I believe He did this to free us from the rigid definitions we put around “rest” and “work”. The Sabbath is not about what we can and can’t do. The Sabbath is about being with God.
The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat, which means: to stop, to end, to rest. I believe the Sabbath looks different for everyone, and I think that’s what Jesus was getting at. He wants us to be able to define for ourselves what is restful, and with that, lean into Him.
What this might look like…
At this point, you might be wondering what a Sabbath day could look like for you personally. From what I’ve read there are three common practices:
The traditional Sabbath: from 20 minutes before sundown Friday night to the same time Saturday late afternoon.
The Lord’s Day Sabbath: from Sunday morning (or sometimes Saturday night), through bedtime on Sunday. (This is the one I practice).
The midweek Sabbath: any day during the week. (This works best for people with sporadic work schedules.)
There are a lot of best practices for the Sabbath, but there are no “rules”. How you spend your day is up to you. After all, the Sabbath is for you. Mark 2:27 says “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” When filtering how you want to spend your day, ask yourself - is this restful? Keeping in mind , there’s a big difference between “resting” (reading, quiet time, etc.) and “checking out” (binging Netflix, mindlessly scrolling, etc.)
Practicing Sabbath is not easy, it certainly takes discipline, but it’s so, so worth it! If I could leave you with a bit of encouragement it would be to start where you’re at. If you can do a ½ day, start there and work your way up. And don’t give up. I truly feel like it took me two months to get to a place where I’m living it and loving it. Lastly, even if you are reading this and none of the Biblical reasons for honoring Sabbath resonate with you, I still think there’s value in practicing a day of rest. I believe our world now, more than ever, needs one day a week to disconnect and find themselves.
“Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.” - Abraham Joshua Heschel