Sinking into Sabbath 1: Holy Rest

Last month I read through Exodus and slogged through Leviticus, and one thing that hit me was just how seriously the Lord took the concept of Sabbath and rest. I think in the back of my mind I knew it already – after all, keeping the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, but this time around something peculiar stirred my brain as I read Exodus 20: “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."

This time around, it sounded like Rest, because the day is holy. The day is holy because the Lord rested. So holy equals…rest? Rest equals…holy? Really? Why had I not noticed that before? I grew up thinking that we needed to rest on the Sabbath because the Lord rested and we were supposed to be like Him. But this time, I saw that there was more to it than that: we keep the Sabbath holy by resting.  For those of us who love being busy, who think that only lazy people rest, or who subconsciously think that engaging in activity earns God's approval, this Commandment is a bit shocking, really: in order to keep the Sabbath day holy, we actually need to just rest. It's the most inactive way to actively keep a law.

Or, it's the most difficult way to actively keep a law. I don't know about you, but it's hard for our family to simply rest on a Sunday. Sunday mornings start out with breakfast, clothes, shoes, going to church, soothing kids while they're in church so they're not disruptive, and then coming home and doing the whole routine of eating, dishes, sweeping up, naps and quiet time. Sundays are hardly restful, especially if I'm helping out with the worship team or in the nursery. Even though we don't do any hostel project work on that day, there can still be a go-go-go mentality to Sundays that I'd like to reduce.

In the midst of mulling over all of this, I read my friend Happy's blog post about her own journey of celebrating the Sabbath. I really like what she said here:

"My goal is to have my first Sabbath meal ([for me, it's] Friday night) ready and waiting at the end of the day – no preparation required, just coming home and sinking into Sabbath the way you sink into slumber at the end of a good (but long) journey – with joy, relief, celebration, anticipation, and contentment."

"Sinking into Sabbath" – what a vivid phrase. I could totally relate to the imagery and the feelings that Happy used, and it motivated me to start thinking again about how we could celebrate the Sabbath as a family, even when at this stage of our life so much work goes into taking care of our kids. I mean, we can't really take a day off from that kind of work.

But perhaps there are other ways of making Sundays special. I like Happy's idea of having the Sabbath meal ready, and maybe for us this means that I actually make Sunday lunch on Saturday night and let it sit in the Crock-Pot. I've also heard from other friends that they set apart their Sabbaths by having media-free Sundays or make a special dinner with dessert to show the kids that the day is special. For us, for the past few weeks we've been leaving the housework and dishes until Sunday night and trying to just rest and spend time with the kids during the day. Every time I sink onto the couch on a Sunday, I think, "I'm sinking into Sabbath!"

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all, and I’m only in the beginning stages of thinking it through in this new way. Have you ever thought about the interplay between rest and keeping the Sabbath holy? Or, what do you do to set aside the day for the Lord? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  • Charlotte

    I have been reading through Genesis – Deuteronomy this year and have pondered over the sabbath, rest, etc. Rest seems so elusive! Maybe much more planning ahead is needed like you said. I love the phrase sinking into the sabbath! I have recently had two stress related ailments, so I need to revisit this subject…..just haven’t had time! Oops…..that’s part of the problem!

  • Have you ever read the Little House on the Prairie Books? If I remember right, their family would work work work on Saturdays to get everything ready (food, chores, etc.) so they could rest on Sunday! I don’t remember much from reading the books, but I do remember that!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Faith

    Catie and Charlotte, thanks for your thoughts!

    And Catie, I never did read the LHOTP books (I was more into GI Joes and Transformers). But it sounds smart to work ahead so you can have a full day of rest on Sundays. Let’s see how we can work that in!