HOW TO PRACTICE THE SABBATH
As we discovered in the first sabbath article, the sabbath is a gift of God where we can cease from our ordinary work for a day in order to step into greater playful delight. But how do we start sabbathing well?
It's helpful to begin discerning what things will lead to sabbath delight for you. To get practical, here's a couple categories of questions to help you discern what sabbathing well looks like for you—and it will look a bit different for each person.
To help in this, we made a handy sabbath resource for you as you explore this practice. (The link will take you to a google tool that is read only. Click file > make a copy. Then you will be able to edit your own copy and save your progress.)
Note: If you have a family, it might be helpful to make two of these—one for you, and one for your family as a whole.
1. What ordinary work can you cease?
We all have ordinary work—the stuff required of us throughout our week. Simply naming it is helpful. The gift of sabbath ceasing means you can set these things aside—you can rest from your toils. (Sure, there are some acts of necessity and mercy that can't stop. Ex: Aiding a neighbor with an emergency; helping pull off a Sunday worship at a church plant; basic parenting. That said, much work remains from which we can rest. And those we cannot, perhaps they can be re-framed within a new sabbath lens.)
As you think through that main question, here's some related sub-questions that might help you answer it from a few different angles.
- What could it look like to rest from your vocational labors? Your domestic chores? Your digital activity? Your mental activity?
- What are normal patterns of life that needlessly clutter your day? They aren't necessarily bad, they just take up space. (Ex: googling various curiosities; listening to podcasts)
- What helps you cease/rest? (Ex: turning off your phone; taking a nap; walking at that favorite spot.)
- What needs to be done in order for you to cease your work? (Ex: tidying your common spaces; shopping a day early; making a reservation at that restaurant or RMNP.)
2. What fuels delight in you?
Even though we all want delight, it's a much tougher question than the first. Think about how God has uniquely made you to create things, to push back against darkness, to play and laugh. You have tears just for this life, but you're made to delight into eternity. So as your unique, divinely-designed self, how did God make you to delight?
Again, here's some ways of asking the same question from a few different angles:
- What are places, people, activities, things that you love and enjoy? Be concrete.
- What is rejuvenating to you physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? We're whole people. Be wholistic in considering rest & delight.
- What things allow you to exhale—to let go? (Ex: journaling; prayer.) What things allow you to inhale—to fill up and enjoy? (Ex: floating the river; cross country skiing; reading.)
- Is it more restful to have a planned structure to your time, or to have unstructured, unplanned time?
- Are you introverted or extroverted? Knowing whether you recharge by being alone or with others can be very insightful when thinking through the sabbath.
"The Sabbath is routinely rejected because it is one of our most profound tastes of grace."— Dan Allender
In these next three weeks, here's a manageable path for trying on sabbath rest. Start small and reasonable and build to a more robust sabbath. If ever there was a time to see what sabbath rest could be like, why not now?
Week 1 - Start Small
This first week, fill out the sabbath resource for yourself. As the weekend comes closer, start small. Choose just one thing to cease and one thing that might be a delight.
Week 2 – Fill It Out
Try it on more fully. This may be a challenge, but find a day to try to sabbath. Ideally, this is a 24 hour period, but if you need to grow into it more gradually, give yourself the freedom. Again, the sabbath isn't meant to be oppressive but joyfully liberating.
Week 3 – More Robust & Enjoyable
Now that you've had some experience with sabbathing, take note of what worked and what didn't. See if there are ways you might more gleefully anticipate the sabbath.
If you're interested in exploring this more, here are a few resources:
- Six Ways to Practice Sabbath by Tim Keller (short article)
- Wisdom & Sabbath Rest by Tim Keller (article)
- Sabbath: The Ancient Practices by Dan Allender (book)
- Living the Sabbath by Norman Wirzba (book)
- Margin by Richard Swenson (book)