“Kids, hurry up and get your shoes on! We’re going to be late again!”
“No, I can’t read you a story tonight. We stayed up too late and have to get up early for school.”
“We’ll just have to eat on the way. We don’t have time to eat at home tonight!”
It seems like we’re all going non-stop at a pace that we can’t handle, but if you’re like me, you haven’t stopped long enough to figure out what to do about it. All we know is that we’d like our lives to be different.
To make a very long story short, I had a bit of a breakdown in early August. The kind where one day you just hit a wall.
That’s what happened to me. In early August, I was coming out of a super busy season that was amplified by also being the General Contractor for our building project at Resonance. As it turns out, I had been putting a ton of pressure on myself (through no one’s fault but my own), and I was feeling majorly overwhelmed. I had gained about 15 pounds, I was waking up with chest pains, and I just couldn’t handle it anymore. So one day after work, I just started driving, not knowing where I was going.
I spent the next several hours having a “passionate discussion” (i.e., yelling) at God about my situation. Thankfully, we have a Father who loves us and is so incredibly patient with us. Once I stopped throwing my fit, there was enough silence to listen. Probably for the first time in a long time.
God began to speak about what he really wanted for me and my family. He led me to read several books and a ton of scripture over the next two weeks, and one word kept hitting me over and over again: SABBATH.
“Sabbath? Isn’t that the day each week when Jewish people can’t walk more than a quarter of a mile or use any appliances or turn on any lights? What the heck does that have to do with us today?”
Although Sabbath is often considered an old law to ignore from the Big Ten (it’s actually the longest and most detailed commandment), it’s something that reveals a great deal about the heart of our Father and what he wants for us. He wants to give us rest and healing and a life that doesn’t burn us out.
The problem is we view Sabbath as either legalistic or irrelevant, but it’s actually neither.
In his book, Emotionally Health Spirituality, Peter Scazzero outlines four things that comprise a Biblical Sabbath. These are what God wants for us on a regular basis (e.g., one day a week).
1. God wants us to stop.
Stop doing. Stop achieving. Stop striving. Stop working. Stop everything.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. We will not be able to accomplish all of our goals in life. But we make the mistake of thinking that we can’t stop until we finish whatever it is we think we need to finish. To be honest, this has been one of my greatest weaknesses. My inability to stop has been a huge problem.
We just need to stop. Not forever. Just for one day a week. When we stop, we can finally listen. We can finally feel. We can finally be a “human being” instead of a “human doing.”
2. God wants us to rest.
“But I can’t rest. I’m busy doing a ton of stuff to make my life full and awesome. Actually, I need to stop reading this post because we’re late to go do that thing we don’t like with the people we can’t stand to be around so that our kids will have everything they always wanted.”
I get it. I’ve been there too. We put pressure on ourselves to be everything, especially for our kids. But we often don’t take care of our families or ourselves – physically, spiritually or emotionally. And it’s killing us. We need rest. God rested on the seventh day, and he asks us to do the same.
He didn’t create us to rest. He created rest for us.
This means rest from all of our work, paid and unpaid. So we have to make time to do all of that on the other six days (yes, it’s possible). On the Sabbath, we rest.
3. God wants us to delight.
“You mean, I can take time to do what’s fun?” Yes! I know it’s a novel concept. God finished all of creation and said it was all “very good.” He delighted over what he had made.
When we take time to delight and see beauty and have fun, we gain perspective on our life. We can even enjoy our kids!
4. God wants us to contemplate.
Once we have stopped, rested and delighted, we contemplate. We think about the love of our Father. We make this day “holy” (i.e., set apart, different, elevated) by putting things into proper perspective.
The central focus of our Sabbath is to think about the love of our Father.
“That’s great. But how the heck does our family do that? We’re so busy!”
Listen. I know you’re busy. So am I.
My family made a decision to start a weekly Sabbath about a month ago (it won’t happen by accident). The first couple of weeks were pretty horrible. I’m convinced it was a combination of spiritual attacks and just our inability to slow down because we had never really done it before. It turns out that we had been “ON” for so long, that we had basically hard-wired our brains and our bodies to stay in that mode. So switching off for a day was a massive internal battle.
Now that we’ve done this for several weeks, we’re starting to get the hang of it. Yes, it has taken adjustment and intentionality, but it has been TOTALLY worth it. Every Saturday (which is just a day that works for our family), this is what Sabbath looks like for us:
- We turn off our cell phones and other technology (yes, completely OFF)
- We stop ALL work (paid and unpaid, including laundry, mowing, etc.)
- We have an awesome meal on Friday night to start
- We eat leftovers (or super easy stuff) on Saturday
- We do whatever is fun for our family
- We say “YES” “as much as we can
- We thank our Father for how good he is and how much he loves us
- WE RELAX!
It’s less important WHAT we do than it is that we set aside an intentional period every week to stop, rest, delight and contemplate. Whatever that looks like for your family will work itself out.
And you know what? After just a few short weeks, the other six days of our life have changed dramatically without even trying! Sabbath is impacting the decisions we make every day. It’s hard to explain without just doing it.
So that’s my challenge to you, parents. My challenge isn’t to do something. It’s to NOT do something.
Try it this weekend. You’ll probably have a rough time like we did the first few go rounds, but if you do it every week, you’ll hit your stride pretty quickly.
Your kids will thank you. You will thank yourself. You’ll experience things you’ve never experienced before. You will actually hear God’s voice and his heart, maybe for the first time ever.
All by what you DON’T do.