Riddle me this: When do the days get shorter and longer at the same time?
The obvious answer is fall, with its diminishing sunlight and flood of new commitments and responsibilities. If your calendar is like mine, it is already packed full. School, sports, Life Group, weekend getaways, the list goes on and on. Honestly, I love it all, but the question is: How do I keep my calendar from running me?
There is also an ancient answer to this question: Sabbath. Honoring the Sabbath is the discipline of setting aside one full day a week to practice life as a human “being” rather than a human “doing.”
Like all true disciplines, honoring the Sabbath is far more art than science. There are rules — avoid accomplishing things, attempt to never hurry, set aside time to be alone, read and pray. But these are not boxes to be checked. To observe the Sabbath is to practice being a child of God rather just getting things done.
Traditionally, Saturday, and later Sunday, was the day people practiced the Sabbath together. Imagine living in a community where most work stopped for a full day once a week. While it’s easy to “poopoo” not being able to shop on Sunday, it’s also easy to imagine the mental health dividends for a culture with a framework for slowing down. But we live in a different world today. For us, Sabbath is a form of resistance; it’s a tangible way to declare that provision, value and joy come from Jesus, not from the things we accomplish or even the fun things we get to do.
So, what is the difference between a day off and honoring the Sabbath?
A day off is about not having to do what my job requires of me. This might mean sleeping in or recreation, but more often it means chores and fulfilling other commitments. Sometimes we pack our days off with so many fun activities that we never really pause.
Honoring the Sabbath is different. It involves setting aside a day specifically to rest. To rest is to not be a slave; it is freedom from the tyranny of the urgent. It requires faith that the Lord really is your shepherd and you shall not want.
Honoring the Sabbath requires intentionality. It means saying no to some things, at times even good things. Pete Scazzero, co-founder of the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship ministry, suggests this approach: “Sabbath is like receiving the gift of a heavy snow day every week. [Without needing to shovel!] Stores are closed. Roads are impassable. Suddenly you have the gift of a day…. You don’t have any obligations, pressures, or responsibilities. You have permission to play, be with friends, i
If, like me, you are feeling the weight of your fall schedule, I want to challenge you to consider again the fourth commandment:
“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.” (Exodus 20:8-11)