I used to use Sabbath-Rest as a weapon.
My dad loves to work with his hands. A day working outside in the yard? Re-energizing. Cutting down trees, hauling logs, bush-whacking weeds? Peaceful.
I, on the other hand, do not feel this way. On my dad’s day off (before he became a Pastor) he would want my sisters and I to join him in his Sunday “rest.” I would wield the fourth commandment as a shield and weapon. “No way. God said not to work on Sunday.”
[Side note: Yes, I do know that the original Sabbath was the 7th-day. For the purposes of this article, I will be referencing it as a consistent day in your week. Not necessarily a specific day of the week.]
Healthcare Doesn’t Rest
When I was in my teens, I started working at the local nursing home. Like most jobs in healthcare, weekends were required. After all, the residents needed to participate in life on Saturdays and Sundays just as well as the rest of the week. So, I gave up my day of rest.
In college, I tried studying 7-days straight and found it was horrid. Who wants to study every day? Not me! I tried taking Sunday off but found I was so stressed out because I had usually relaxed a bit on Saturday instead of doing the procrastinator’s rush of homework/prep for Monday classes. There was a simple solution: I moved my day off to Saturday. I discovered that I was much more efficient the rest of the week when I took a full day away from my studies. That mental break was such a blessing.
After college, I worked my tail off. (I wanted to pay off my 4-year private school loans fast!) As an RN, I still worked many weekends. I valued my days off and generally took the first day off after a stretch of work as my rest day. Single and childless, this totally worked. If I wanted to be “off” on Tuesday, I could. It wouldn’t interfere with anything. Although I didn’t always get to incorporate the spiritual community in my day off, I still rested.
Babies Don’t Give Mom a Day Off
Later, I got married and we had babies. And babies don’t give you a day off. They are 24/7/365 responsibilities. My husband and I made sure we were attending church (we worked opposite weekends, so one of us could go.) But there was no rest in the day. It was a regular day with an extra activity of church.
Fast forward to three-years ago. I was working 3-twelve hour shifts in the Emergency Department every other weekend. I would get home from my Sunday shift late at night and try to sleep quickly because it was already several hours into Monday. Bleary-eyed, I would wake up and start the homeschool week. Monday through Friday I was mom and teacher to four boys.
And, of course, as a wife and mom, every day included cooking, cleaning, and laundry. (Big shout out to my husband here. He does just as much cooking, cleaning, and laundry as I do. We are a team.)
I. Was. Tired.
Sabbath Rest: Reviewing Ancient Practices
That year, three-years ago in our homeschool journey, we were studying the beginning of history. To bring history to life, we observed some of the feasts and celebrations from the Old Testament. One of those was the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was/is a day to keep holy. The Jews were told not to work on that day, not even during the harvest when there was tons of time-sensitive work to be done. Every single week, they were to take a day off to rest and worship. This command was in the same list as “do not murder” and “do not steal.” What would your life be like if you placed the same priority on taking a day of rest as the other commandments like murder and theft?
For our school Sabbath celebration, we lit candles, said Hebrew prayers and blessings, and ate a special meal called cholent. The ancient Jews prepared their Sabbath meal before the Sabbath began. That way, on the Sabbath, they didn’t do anything that wasn’t vital. Yes, people and animals needed to be fed and cared for. But laundry? Nope.
I have a crockpot. Even better, I have a fridge full of left-overs. I decided I was no longer cooking on Sundays. We could eat regular breakfast (find your own) and then after church, we would eat left-overs. Each week my role was to pull everything out and re-heat, but I declared that I was not cooking or preparing anything. If the boys didn’t like the leftovers, it was too bad; that’s what was for lunch. (I was sick of throwing moldy food away.) After all the leftovers were gone, they could make themselves a sandwich if they were still hungry.
Supper would be another meal very easy for the cook. Popcorn and hardboiled eggs. This is normally consumed on a “picnic blanket” on the floor of the den while watching a movie.
Is it a full and balanced meal? No.
Does it contain colorful fruits and veggies? No.
Is it the most healthy meal of the week? No.
Will it hurt them? No.
Is there a lot of prep or clean-up? No.
Do they look forward to this change from our daily routine? Yes.
Is this meal restful for me? Yes.
A Refreshing Change
Just deciding that I was taking a day off from cooking and meal prep was a breath of fresh air. I felt relaxation start to enter my Sundays.
After that, it wasn’t hard to institute “mom’s day off” the rest of the day. The boys quickly learned that Sunday afternoon is for playing together or independently. Mom won’t get involved. In fact, mom often takes a nap on the couch or can be found snuggled under a blanket, reading a book! And it. is. beautiful.
Three years later, our Sabbath rest is still in place. But now that I’m not working in the Emergency Department every other weekend, it’s even better because it happens every week!
Sometimes, I think I have too much to do. So I add stuff to my day off. Whether it is a bit of work or just laundry and “regular” stuff, sometimes I let it creep in. When this first happened, I didn’t notice. But what I did notice was that by Thursday I was spending more time mindlessly scrolling through screens. My productivity faltered; I was having a harder time staying focused on work. It was also too easy to shift into a cranky, short-tempered attitude.
Then it hit me.
The weeks when I did not guard my day off, I paid for it later. And not just me, but my husband and kids did, too. Because when Mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy, right?
The New Normal
So now I guard my day off. I do not schedule many activities on Sundays. We do an occasional get-together or special event, but I try not to let even those happen more than once every few weeks. We eat leftovers for lunch. We eat popcorn and hardboiled eggs while watching a movie. I nap. I read. The boys play. This un-hurried day, the open schedule, the simple meals—they are relaxing and restful. We wake up on Monday ready for a fabulous week. We get more done and do it with better attitudes.
As Tim Keller says in his article The Power of Deep Rest:
There is a symbiotic relationship between work and rest. … We get away from work in order to replenish our bodies and minds. Resting, or practicing Sabbath, is also a way to help us get perspective on our work and put it in its proper place. Often we can’t see our work properly until we get some distance from it and reimmerse ourselves in other activities. Then we see that there is more to life than work. With that perspective and rested bodies and minds, we return to do more and better work.
Your Turn for Rest?
What thoughts are you having as you read through this? Are you thinking, “it works for her, but that would never work for me”? As a wife, mom to 4, homeschool teacher, business owner, and church volunteer, I understand busy.
Because I understand busy, I also understand the need for rest. Rest is the ultimate weapon for your health—your whole health: body, mind, spirit.
I challenge you to try to take a day off sometime this next week. No work—not around the house, not checking email for your job, no work. Don’t get all legalistic about it; that’s not the point. The point is to rest. To recharge. To fill your cup.
I’m not going to lie. The first few weeks I took a day off I felt guilty. I kept thinking of all the things I could/should be doing. My brain knew the list of stuff I had relegated to “when I have time” and all of a sudden I had time. Except I didn’t. It was blocked out for rest. So even though I had a crazy desire to clean our bathrooms from top to bottom, I didn’t scrub toilets on Sunday.
After you take a day of rest, let me know how it went.
If you already keep a day of rest, what tips do you have for others thinking about starting this practice?
Comment below or over in The Whole Health Community.
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