It has been a few years since our family has started faithfully keeping a Biblical Sabbath, and I can’t express how much of a blessing it has been to us. It has become an integral part of our week and health.
What do I mean by Biblical Sabbath? I take my definition from Peter Scazzero in his book “Emotionally Healthy Leader.” He says that a Biblical Sabbath is a 24 hour block of time where we stop work, enjoy rest, practice delight, and contemplate God. Traditionally, Jews started Sabbath on Friday at sunset until Saturday at sunset. Typically, Christians tend to keep their Sabbath on Sundays. Our family, since Luke is a pastor, we keep our Sabbath Sunday night until Monday night.
What don’t we do on our Sabbath? We don’t do any work, either paid or unpaid. Since my husband’s job is ministry to people, we set firm boundaries, explaining that we won’t do meetings or even conversations on Mondays. That means we shut off our phones, don’t look at emails, and may not answer our door. I prepare food on Sunday for Monday, and do very minimal food prep on Monday. I do extra cleaning on Sunday so I don’t have to do it on Monday. Our friends and family know not to try to call or text us, and if they do, that they won’t get a response until Tuesday. We don’t do strenuous exercise or tackle any house projects. We set things down and come together as a family.
What do we do on our Sabbath? We accept God’s invitation to rest. We might play a board game as a family, watch a disney movie on the couch, go on a walk or hike, read a book outloud together, play disc golf, make a snowman, do sparklers, etc. We also delight. We might delight in the food we eat, such as a special meal. My husband and I have a date night where we delight in each other. We delight in our kids, often sharing fun stories, giving them small gifts, or snuggling with them. Finally, we contemplate God. We bring Him into our conversations, think of ways that our situations relate to Bible passages, and praise Him for all the things we delighted in that day.
What are the results of our Sabbath? Our family is happier and healthier after practicing Sabbath every week for a few years. We are more humble, as we’ve realized the world can go on without us in it for a day. We are more relaxed, as we are able to drop our priorities and burdens for a day. We are healthier, as we get extra rest and emotional connection time. We are more satisfied with life, as we are more delighted with what we already have. We are closer to the Lord, as we have the practice of bringing God into our day. It is worth all the extra work we do to prepare for Sabbath. It is worth every sacrifice made to keep it. It is worth every boundary raised to protect it.
How do you start keeping a Sabbath? I highly recommend reading The Emotionally Healthy Leader, specifically Chapter 5 on the Sabbath. First, you need to decide to keep a Sabbath. It must be an intentional decision that you desire to keep. I encourage you to pray about it with your spouse if you are married, and if you both agree to keep a Sabbath, talk about it with your kids if you have them. Second, after you decide to keep a Sabbath, decide on the best day to keep it. For us, it was my husband’s day off. Third, remember to prepare for Sabbath on the day before. For us, that is Sunday. I do extra cooking so all I have to do is reheat food. I do extra house chores, like empty the dishwasher, to have the house in a clean state. Luke passes off any responsibilities, finished emails, and does any house projects on Sunday in order to set down those burdens. Lastly, communicate with those around you that you are taking a complete day of rest on that day. It is okay to interact and communicate with people if your job doesn’t include that and they don’t stress you out or ask for your help. It is also okay to tell people you will be disconnecting from social media and your phone for a day. Do whatever it takes to set down your burdens and responsibilities. The world and the people in it will survive a day without you. You are allowed to take a day to rest with the Lord.
Obviously, as a parent, we don’t avoid the training, discipline, or care of our kids. Thought that is work, it is not the kind that can be neglected. A few years ago, when our kids’ health was really bad and we had a toddler, Luke and I got a babysitter and left the house for a portion of our Sabbath for rest even from those needs. Now we just have our tween help his younger siblings get ready for bed while my hubby and I have a date in our room (we have a little sitting area and library in there.)
I highly recommend getting into the habit of a weekly Biblical Sabbath. It will enrich your life in ways you never realized were possible. It is a lot of work, you may have to fight for it, and it isn’t easy to set things down, but you will not regret taking one! The Lord is honored and your life blessed by obeying the Lord in this way. I hope you are able to experience the same peace our family has!