Some Thoughts on Sabbath

Sundays have traditionally been a hard day for me.

It is so hard for me to grasp that God loves me despite my performance. I spend all week over-working, over-tidying, under-resting, that come Sunday? I don’t know how to take a break. Sometimes church seems like performance. And then lunch still has to be made. And then the cleanup. And then usually not much of anything going on, which can drive a person who is used to going ninety miles an hour absolutely crazy. (The only time I sit around and do nothing is when I’m sick.) (And to me, the doing-nothing part is worse than how bad I feel.) When the schedules and nap times are all off kilter, I tend to unravel.

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How can I get off the hamster wheel and simply rest? How can I turn a blind eye to the sink full of dishes to soak in the Word? To read a book that points me to Him? To strategically plan conversations and get-togethers that stir my affections for Jesus? The only solution I’ve found is to schedule other things instead.

One of the most profound quotes I’ve ever heard is by Matt Chandler. “Find the things that stir your affections for Christ and saturate your life in them. Find the things that rob you of that affection and walk away from them. That’s the Christian life as easy as I can explain it for you.”

In the last two years, I have come to realize not only how much I really do want rest, but how much I need it. More than that, the Lord is teaching me how vital it is to pleasing Him. It is not in the performance, or the sacrifices, or the burnt offerings (in case you’re reading this, and your name is Saul). It is in obedience to Him that I find His blessing. He rested on the seventh day, and if the God of the universe had to do that, then how could I consider myself exempt from rest? I can cop out and say that it’s simply my personality to be a planner and be busy, but when I feel the need to be in control and producing  every minute of every day, busy is an idol that is robbing my affections for Christ.

The lists of “stirs” and “steals” will look different for each person. There is not a right or wrong answer. This list may even fluctuate over time for a person, as seasons of life come and go. What once brought joy may now be a chore. What once carried dread may now lead to excitement.

Obviously, we can’t neglect the laundry in order to take bubble baths and go to coffee with our girlfriends every day. But one day that is a good time to focus on the things that stir our affections for Jesus is on our Sabbath. For most people, that day will be Sunday. For ministers and laymen who serve primarily on Sunday, that day is anything but restful and another day will suit them better. For some, dedicating an entire day to “Sabbath-ing” is completely out of the question. God sees your heart and desire to focus on Him. The idea is to set aside a chunk of time to revive your soul.

Matt Chandler mentions that your habits may stay the same, but your motivation should change on this day. You may still go on a run like you do the other days, but this day, you do it to appreciate nature and pray instead of to lose weight or beat your time. For some, it may mean grabbing lunch in a drive-thru to eliminate work and mess. For some, it will be making an elaborate meal and sharing it with others. There are no rules. Just listen to the Holy Spirit and take note of the state of your soul. Do you tend to feel discontent or depressed after browsing social media? Avoid that on your Sabbath. Do you feel joyful after blogging? Your Sabbath may be a good day to schedule that.

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Some things on my list are listening to uplifting music while soaking in the tub, reading a Christian magazine, writing thank-you notes, doing my homework for discipleship group, letting my husband cook lunch. Oh yes, please. (And, he just brought me breakfast in bed. This doesn’t usually happen, but I’m going to put this on my “stirs” list and let him know I need this more often.) Some Sundays, my bed doesn’t get made. I’m learning to be okay with this. Maybe my email won’t get checked. I don’t generally consider watching tv to be something that stirs my affection for Jesus. (Usually, if anything, it’s a steal.) But it so happens that on my Sabbath, my husband and I watch our favorite show together. We talk during commercials, eat icecream, and go over our finances. Something that used to be a chore is now something we look forward to.

So today, my discipleship homework is to plan my next Sabbath. Will I go read at a coffeeshop? Will I hike a new trail? Will I decorate my prayer closet? This is where my planner-personality-meets-practicality.

Slowly but surely, Sunday is becoming one of my favorite days.

 

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