By Laura L. Smith
I knew that word back in Sunday school, but I never thought about what it meant to practice it. And, yes, Sabbath takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike in a field. Freeing. Peaceful. Restorative. Fun.
For decades my idea of Sabbath was going to church on Sundays. But Sabbath is more than that. God didn’t create the Sabbath because he needed a rest. He’s God. He doesn’t get tired. God asks us to take a day off every week so he can restore us.
God modeled Sabbath from the beginning of the world: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” (Genesis 2:2–3).
Ferris Bueller didn’t invent the day off. God did!
And he invites us to take advantage of it. God feels so strongly about us taking time to rest that he made it one of the Ten Commandments: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
Sabbath is taking our to-dos, our work — whatever that is — and handing it over to God, saying, “I believe you are who you say you are. I believe that when you ask me to take a break, it’s for a good reason. I believe that you’re able to keep the world spinning, my company running, my family fed, if that’s your desire, even if I take a day off.”
What defines work? What do you need to take a day off from?
That’s between you and God.
For me, Sabbath means taking a day off from my work of writing and speaking. I have decided that my email, social media, and work planner are off-limits on my Sabbath.
For you this could look totally different.
Making dinner drains one of my friends, so she never cooks on her Sabbath. For me, cooking when I have time (versus frantically throwing together things in the kitchen in a time crunch) is luxurious. One Sunday my daughter and I turned on French café music — accordions accompanied by the brush of cymbals — and spent over two hours shredding sharp Gruyère, slicing thick chunks of baguette, and dancing around the kitchen preparing a fondue feast for our family. It was a blast, and nothing about it resembled work.
When I started practicing Sabbath, I frequently picked up my phone by instinct. Someone emailed me — shouldn’t I email them back? I didn’t get much work accomplished Thursday because of the field trip I chaperoned, so couldn’t I sneak back some time now?
God doesn’t want us to be legalistic about this. Remember, he doesn’t need you to rest. This is for you. God designed work to be completed in six days. Trust him. You know which things consume you maybe a bit too much. I know it’s hard to let go for an entire day, but God wants goodness for us.
Jesus put it this way: “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NLT).
God created the Sabbath for us! He made it so we would be fulfilled — so our needs of rest and restoration would be met. It’s real. It works. This beautiful thing God designed for us when he created the universe actually restores our soul.
Sabbath has become my favorite day of the week.
Why? Because I exhale. I’m not rushing from church to the next and the next. I take a slow sip of my mocha and savor the froth, let it tickle my tongue. I’m an introvert, so introverted things refuel my tank. I journal. I call my mom or a friend and can be fully present for the conversation because I’m not trying to do anything else. Sometimes I’ll pull out my acrylics and paint, or maybe I’ll write a couple of cards to friends. I’ll go for a walk with my kids or sit and read a book — and not just a snippet but an actual chapter or two or five if the day permits. I’ll paint my fingernails and toes in candy-colored shades that make me smile.
If you’re an extrovert, you’ll refuel differently. Maybe you visit with friends over a bonfire in your backyard or a game night. You know the things that restore you.
God offers us peace and restoration with Sabbath. It might take several weeks or months or iterations of practicing Sabbath, of really letting go of some things, of releasing yourself to the rest God intended when he created the Sabbath. God’s not evaluating you on how you take Sabbath; he’s inviting you into it. It was always meant as a gift. Receive it. Relish it. Let it restore your soul.