Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Sabbath Experiment: Implementations {our first steps in practicing Sabbath}

This is part three of Sabbath Experiment, a series detailing our family's journey* into taking one day of rest per week.

Part One discussed signs of needing a Sabbath rest.

Part Two discussed why we were created for Sabbath rest and why we should consider taking one.

Essentially, our family has erased an entire day from our schedules every week.

It sounds radical.

And it has been radical in every sense of the word because the very practice of taking a day purely for rest and enjoyment goes against the grain of our culture.

To clarify, we haven't written Sundays off entirely as a day; we've simply excluded our chosen rest day from our schedules.

Consequently, they've become even more meaningful.

Not only have Sundays become a day we really look forward to, but the rest of the week has been revitalized as well.

I've found through erasing one day from our schedule and designating it for rest that I've actually found more time, more energy to conquer my to-do lists.

So how did we even go about implementing such a counter-cultural practice?

Well, easily and also not-so-easily. I say easily because once we did the harder work of implementing it, we found that our bodies and minds very easily fell into this beautiful rhythm of six days filled with work and one day filled with rest.

Probably the bumpiest part of the journey was the actual start-up -- the whole do-I-really-want-to-make-this-seemingly-huge-change mindset hurdle; but the destination is totally worth the ride.

1. We realized we needed a Sabbath rest every week.

Part of realizing we needed a 24-hour break every six days came from evaluating our commitments. We were overbooked, overtired and overdone emotionally.

We knew we had to evaluate what was most important, and weed out the commitments -- big and small-- that did not have us going where our greatest desires met the world's greatest need.

2. We acknowledged that the world would continue spinning, life would go on when we took our weekly rests.

Essentially, we recognized and then said it aloud by putting our words into action, that God created us to have a Sabbath every week.

He mirrored it for us when he rested during the seventh day of creation. And we trusted He would keep the universe and our lives in proper alignment while we broke from our daily routine, just as He always has and always will.

3. We identified what we wanted from our rest.

We wanted a day filled with no commitments or stress or even stressful thoughts; we envisioned a time to rest if needed, to relax, to enjoy family and to feel rejuvenated through worship and community.

Certainly, each family may have different wants. But the heart of sabbath is rest, enjoyment and trust.

Rest from the daily struggles of life.

Enjoyment of blessings.

And trust that God is in control even when we are not actively "doing" something labeled as productive.

4. We identified activities, conversations and events that would NOT help us meet our end goals of rest, enjoyment and trust.

For example, because talking about money stresses me out, we don't discuss making major purchases or scurry off to the store, a place where I'll inevitably think about our budget and how much we're spending.

We also don't make plans that bind us to being someplace at an exact time because it rushes our family, which really gets John's blood pressure boiling. {Exception: church. But we've been learning to plan for that so it's less of a get-out-the-door-now-now-NOW experience.}

5. We planned to accomplish our to-do-list tasks during the other six work days of the week.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, this is where overcommitment issues that have not been addressed will become apparent.

Sometimes even really good activities {like volunteering at numerous places or being part of three Bible studies or playgroups} must be reconsidered when you feel overextended.

And, my friend, if you cannot find one day out of the week to rest, chances are you are overextended.

Just like flowers and fruitful plants are choked out by weeds, so is our own fruitfulness when we allow over crowding in the garden of our lives.

{More on thinning out the schedule during part four.}

6. We chose a 24-hour time period during the week that naturally allowed for rest.

Obviously, we didn't choose Monday through Friday because John works those days.

We actually begin our Sabbath rest at sundown Saturdays and end at sundown Sundays. This time period allows me still to prepare for Mondays on Sunday night, but also lends an entire 24-hours of rest during periods of time we normally want to take a break -- Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.

We incorporated an entire 24-hour rest into the points of the week that we already naturally wanted to break from routine.

7. We were open-minded

Well, John was open-minded, and he encouraged me to be open-minded, too.

We went into this Sabbath Experiment with willing hearts -- both by even just giving it a try and by being willing to rework the timing or details if something didn't feel right for our family.

I whole-heartedly believe that Sabbath will have the basic foundation for each family -- rest and enjoyment -- but that it will look different in terms of how it's practiced and implemented.

8. We avoided legalistic thoughts.

At first, I saw days of rest as periods of time where we would have to avoid a laundry-list of activities: don't engage in consumerism, don't pick up a single thing around the house, don't do anything that might border on physical exercise.

Don't, don't, don't.

I was bound in the chains of legalism when we first started discussing Sabbath practice.

But John really helped me see that I was acting more like a pharisee than Jesus by allowing the law to overtake the heart, the purpose behind the law.

It's not: I can't do that; it's Sunday.

Rather, it's: I can rest, relax, enjoy; it's Sunday.

So if going for a walk or a hike brings our family pleasure and helps bring our hearts into a spirit of worship through enjoying God's creation even though we are exercising our bodies in the process, we'll go for the walk.

It goes back to remembering our intentions for our Sabbath: rest, enjoy and trust.


Part four of A Sabbath Experiment will focus on getting over the hurdles -- prioritizing commitments, weeding out schedules and making the most of the other six days of the week -- so that rest and relaxation comes more easily on the seventh day.

*Please note that I'm only detailing our experience; I'm not a Sabbath authority, and I don't want anyone to think that by giving this list of steps we took into Sabbath that I've deemed this the only road to getting into a Sabbath practice. Rather, simply, these steps were actually pieces of a conversation John and I had after studying about Sabbath in our Vantage Point3 group.
Life also hasn't been perfect just because we've begun practicing Sabbath. We still have hard days, and I consciously remember NOT to feed the bears spaghetti on those days.