The Pursuit of Enough: Keeping Sabbath

“We rest in order to honor God and his creation, which suggests that not to rest dishonors both.”

-Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World

 

The thing about Sabbath is that there are still always dishes to do and the kids are still themselves. There are diapers to change and stories to read. And that’s my job all week long, right? Can there really be a day when I rest from the demands of raising children? There is paper all over the counter: bills unpaid and that reminder about the preschool field trip and the Valentine’s cards still sitting out. Your world is a mess and the mess wants to swallow you.

There is always more to do.

Sabbath doesn’t arrive when everything is tidy and under control. It arrives in the middle. It forces us to stop, not because we’ve finally earned our rest, but because Christ has earned it for us. There is only room to slow our pace because grace offers that pace to us.

The other day I heard one of my pastors joke that keeping Sabbath is the only Ten Commandment the Church does not expect any one to practice. And no one seems to notice or care. We’re all so busy being American: Working hard! Achieving success! Pushing our children into our culture of striving!

Who has time to rest?

How would we know what to do with ourselves during Sabbath anyway? We are used to living according to our culture’s expectations of accomplishment. We experience Time as a machine rolling over all the “life” we have created for ourselves. Time is moving through and crushing everything in its path. We are frantic people.

*

I’ve been thinking about Sabbath for around nine weeks now. I’ve been reading books and considering rest and asking God how to trust enough to believe I can put my computer down and quiet my head once a week. This is how I do things: seven weeks thinking about it; two weeks actually participating.

But for two weeks in a row during Lent, from sundown Saturday night to sundown Sunday night. I have kept my computer closed. I’ve used my phone as little as possible. I’ve kept the TV off. And it’s made me itch.

Yesterday afternoon, after we made it home from church and the Purim party at August’s school which immediately followed, I stood at the kitchen sink trying to move dishes from the counter to dishwasher, and all I could think was how much I needed to read Rachel Held Evans’ Sunday Superlatives. My kids were playing in the other room and my mind was flickering through every possible reason I should be online. My brain wanted to play inside the internet.

Standing there, I saw for a moment how jumpy my mind has become. I want distractions from the task at hand; I want something interesting to entertain me.

Maybe your vision of Sabbath isn’t doing dishes and fighting the urge to open your computer. Maybe your vision of Sabbath is a warm breeze and a pool and a day with nothing to do. But what I’m learning is that in real life, Sabbath exists as a discipline exactly because there is So. Much. To. Do.

Yesterday, I could have been writing. I could have been returning one of the twenty-five emails I owe. I could have been reading articles online. Yesterday was a practice in trusting God that I am not really in control of my world. I cannot keep everything moving quick enough to survive the machine that wants to crush my life. Yesterday, my pastor said that anxiety is the root of all the evil in our lives. “You won’t find anxious people who are wise,” he said.

Maybe wisdom demands we release our time to God? Maybe rest is the most real work we can do to gain wisdom?

Yesterday afternoon, after ignoring that longing for distraction, I sat on my couch with a book. Chris had just put Brooksie down for his nap and August was playing with his Star Wars ship. After Chris fell asleep on the other side of the couch, August curled up beside me with a chapter book. And I read and read and read it out loud until we all closed our eyes and rested.

We rested when there was still so much left to do. We rested because there is always still so much to do and time is not our enemy.

 

 

 

 

  • aimee

    I love this, Micha. Anxiety plays such a role in our lives these days – we are anxious to see what everyone else is doing or saying on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine, anxious to make sure we are raising our kids right, anxious to see if we are measuring up at work, and so much more. While we are choosing to put down our phones until the kids go to bed each night, I love the reminder to experience a whole day of rest and make the Sabbath a discipline.

    • michaboyett

      So happy to see your name here, A! I really like the idea of putting down our phones until the kids go to bed. I keep thinking of how often my kids’ memories of me will include my face staring at some screen. Thanks for that reminder.

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt Appling

    Awesome words, Micha. Sabbath is such a difficult discipline. I know I haven’t mastered it yet. But I think it’s always been difficult. God told the Israelites they wouldn’t be able to collect manna on Sabbath (and some of them tried to anyway.) The Jews in Jesus’ time had come up with a bunch of workarounds to figure out how they could keep working on the Sabbath, missing the point that the Sabbath was made for us, not to be a burden but a blessing.

    • michaboyett

      Thanks for being here, Matt! Man, there are so many good things that God has given to us as blessings that we turn into burdens. Off to think on that a little more…

  • http://thealreadynotyet.com Matthew

    Such a wonderfully honest reflection. The practice of Sabbath is so simple, yet so difficult; such a gift, yet so difficult to accept. I greatly appreciate your insight that Sabbath is not practiced because we have earned it, but because Christ has earned it; Sabbath is not because we have reached a stopping point in our life, but because it is a freely given gift from God. Today is my Sabbath, and I am thankful for your reflections today.

    • michaboyett

      Matthew, hope it was a restful one. I always appreciate your comments. Yes, it’s so freeing isn’t it? Sabbath is one more thing we don’t have to earn!

  • http://maeven-wordsonpaper.blogspot.ca/ Catherine

    That was amazing. I’ve been trying to follow Sabbath practices for Lent also, and I keep forgetting and checking twitter on my phone or doing homework… This was really encouraging

    • michaboyett

      So glad it was, Catherine. Hope the more you practice, the easier it gets…

  • Lauren

    This really struck a nerve with me. I feel like I’m becoming more and more tethered to the technology in my life; a Sabbath disconnect might be just what I need. Would you mind sharing some of the books and resources you considered during those first seven weeks?

    • michaboyett

      Hey Lauren. I haven’t read too much. I’ve been slowly paging through The Sabbath World since I got it for Christmas. It’s written by a Jewish journalist, so she comes at it from her Jewish faith and heritage. I really recommend it. Some amazing research in there and very well written. But as far as reading anything from a Christian theological bent, I haven’t been. Anybody else have any recommendations?

      • Lauren

        Thanks Micha, I’ve requested the book from my library! I also was looking at my bookshelves this morning and saw Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner, which I had totally forgotten about. It’s a slim volume that looks at a variety of Jewish practices and their Christian applications. I remember the chapter on the Sabbath as very nice. And have you read Wendell Berry’s A Timbered Choir: the Sabbath Poems? Poetry! About the Sabbath! Good stuff.
        Tangentially, I know you like the Watch for the Light collection for Advent so want to make sure you know about the Bread and Wine book by the same publisher. It’s the same format, with readings for Lent.

  • http://revadele.blogspot.com Adele Henderson

    OMG! you have just described me. Observing sabbath by means of no internet is my Lenten Sacrifice and yesteday by the time 6 pm rolled around I was thinking about everything I needed to read on the blogopshere and check what facebook updates were posted. This is truly a discipline for me and I knew it would be, that is why I chose it. Thanks for this post and glad to know I am not the only one who struggles with slowing down.

    • michaboyett

      Thanks Adele. We can bond over how hard it is! I really am amazed at how different my brain is working than it did like six years ago. The internet is really changing us. My brain is skipping so fast from one thing to another and forgetting to focus or sit still. And I never notice unless I’m quiet enough to notice, right?

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    I’ve been following your lead here, Micha, and trying to make Sabbath my Lenten practice. Last week, I managed it, but it was brutally hard. This week I didn’t. I was away for the weekend with my husband, and I let myself off the hook on a technicality. “You had your Sabbath Friday and Saturday. Today you need to get caught up.” Kind of defeats the point, but my monkey mind wanted nothing to do with Sabbath, and I let it win.

    Love this line here: “Sabbath doesn’t arrive when everything is tidy and under control. It arrives in the middle. It forces us to stop, not because we’ve finally earned our rest, but because Christ has earned it for us. ” Yes. Thank you for speaking honestly into the difficulty of this practice and encouraging us all to choose it anyway.

  • http://www.healthyspirituality.org jean wise

    Glad to read your words about SAbbath. I too have been more intentional about practicing Sabbath this year and have blogged about it twice now. The most difficult habit for me to break was unplugging from the technologies and reconnecting with God and my family. But after several weeks now it is easier. I em finding more peace, clarity and focus on Sundays now.. Good discussion here too!

  • Nichole

    Something Dr. Laura said years ago has stuck with me– she said the only thing any of us really has is time. So to “tithe” 1/7th of that back to the L-rd is the least we can offer Him, and of course, benefits us, as well.

  • Alicia

    I really enjoyed the very real spin you give here, Micha. I have come back to Sabbath-keeping in the recent part of my life and in the last few months have seen how it has unfurled into a true blessing. It is true that, just like you said, the Sabbath came to me in the midst of chaos. However over time, the Sabbath has allowed me to organise my chaos. I look forward to preparing a nice, clean, quiet house for the Sabbath – and quiet time with my little family – once a week. It truly IS a blessing !!

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