There’s something unique about the season of summer. Longer days and warmer temperatures invite us to do things we don’t do during the other months of the year. For some, that means being busier than normal, filling days with activities that can only happen during this short season. For others, summer days are more relaxed, without the pressures and demands of the other nine months of the year.
No matter which way your summer is shaping up, summer is a season where time is different.
Time That’s Different
It’s good to have seasons where time is different. Seasons of busy. Seasons of slow. Pauses in a day. Pauses in a week. Rhythms that allow life’s ebb and flow to happen naturally. Rhythms that help our bodies and minds slow down and our souls catch up.
This is what Sabbath embodies more than anything else. A time that is different than the other six days of the week. A time to slow down. A time to say no. A time to enjoy life. A time to view time itself from a different perspective.
Learning and practicing Sabbath has changed me in THE most significant and practical ways possible. Sabbath has taught me to own my schedule instead of letting it own me, to trust God to accomplish what is needed even as I rest, to take a step back from all the doing and simply be.
Sabbath was God’s best gift to me over a decade ago. He wants it to be a gift to you too. Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at different aspects of Sabbath, but for today I want you to simply consider two ideas about Sabbath.
Sabbath is a Time to Slow Down
I’m sure you could list 100 things you need to accomplish on any given day. These things won’t magically disappear when you start practicing Sabbath. But what can change is your perspective on them.
Slowing down is hard. Most of us are used to running non-stop. We are enslaved to our schedules and the demands on our time. We feel like we owe it to God and to others to give and serve and always say yes. We push ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually until there are no reserves left. Our days, weeks and sometimes even months and years blur together and spiral out of control.
Some of us like this level of activity. Busyness can push down pain or fear or sadness. Some of us think there’s no other way to live life in this day and age. And so, we just go with the flow. Some of us try to go against the tide but find it difficult and awkward to go it alone and are easily swept back into the rush of life.
God never intended for life to be like this. God ordained work. Work is good, and we should pour ourselves into whatever our hands find to do. But God also ordained rest. Rest does more than just give physical energy. Rest allows our souls to connect with God. Rest enables us to have God’s view of time, life and priorities. Rest teaches us to rely on God and not ourselves.
How do you learn to slow down?
Exclude What is Typical
God never intended for everyday to be the same blur of activity. He didn’t want our lives to drift into endless days striving to create, accomplish and subdue. He regularly reminded Israel of this truth.
This is God’s Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don’t use the Sabbath to do business as usual. (Jeremiah 17:21-22a MSG)
If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, … If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’ making money, running here and there … (Isaiah 58:13a,c MSG)
What would it look like for you to have a day that was not just another workday? Where you said no to business as usual? Didn’t try to get ahead of your to do list? Had the freedom to say no to responsibility without the usual accompaniment of guilt?
Does that kind of day sound delightful? Like the way you anticipate vacation will be (even if its’ really not!)? Can you get a sense of the burdens that would be lifted and relief that would come if you had this kind of respite day to look forward to each week?
That’s what God wants. It’s what He offers! And it’s why Sabbath is such a gift.
But, if Sabbath is not a typical day, filled with typical responsibilities, what is it?
Sabbath is a Time to Be Present
Just as it’s hard to slow down in today’s busy age, it’s just as hard (maybe even harder) to avoid distraction and be mentally and emotionally present with others. Our devices constantly intrude on our time and focus. Social networks draw us in with the allure of interaction. And all too often it’s easy to miss those closest to us – both in proximity and significance.
Sabbath is a day to prioritize being present with those closest to us. It’s a day to enjoy important relationships – God, family, community – as well as the things that bring delight.
Sabbath doesn’t have to be a balancing act. You don’t have to juggle all the balls on this day. You have permission to say no to the wider world (they’ll be there when you get back!) and instead be present in a different way with those closest to you.
You can do all kinds of things on this day that you don’t have time for on other days. There is one key guiding principle, however, when deciding what to do.
Embrace What Gives Life
You want this day to be characterized by joy, delight, laughter, presence, and intentionality. It might look different from week to week. That’s ok! You’ll have different needs and longings from week to week.
Spend time with others in a slow, focused way that you can’t during the week. Take time to do something you love but can’t get to any other time. Interact with God differently on this day. Take time to enjoy relationship with Him and not just duty. Dream about the life God has given you and where He is leading you.
Isaiah, as part of the above passage, also teaches us this principle,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration… Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all. (Isaiah 58:13b, 14a MSG)
What would it mean for you have a day that is focused on celebrating the life God has given you? Can you see how this kind of day would fill you with joy and life and prepare you for the week ahead?
Sabbath as a Gift
Are you beginning to see how Sabbath truly is a gift? God designed this day for you. He offers it to you. Not because you’ve earned it the other six days of the week. Not because you deserve it. But because He is a kind and gracious Father who richly gives you all things to enjoy – including Himself, your family, your community and the things that bring you delight.
Think of gifts you have given to children. Think of the delight it brings you. Think of the way you enjoy watching their pleasure, listening to their squeals of excitement. This pleasure and excitement of opening a wonderful gift is what God wants for you every week.
God offers you this gift of time that is different. He takes great pleasure in watching you enjoy the life He has given you. He delights in your enjoyment of Sabbath.
Why Not Give Sabbath a Try?
Chances are your time this summer is already different. Either it’s so busy, that you NEED a day to slow down and be present! Or, your summer is slower-paced which makes it more natural to ease into Sabbath.
Start thinking about what it would look like for you to practice Sabbath. (There’s no right or wrong way.)
- What would it look like for you to slow down?
- What typical activities or responsibilities could you exclude?
- Who would you like to be present with?
- What activities or practices bring you joy and give you life?
Need help thinking of ideas? I’ve created a list of 50 typical activities you could consider excluding and 50 activities you might delight to embrace. Each person is different but these are designed to help you start thinking creatively!
Subscribers, log-in to the Resource Library now. You’ll find the printable under the “Sabbath” category.
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In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing my personal journey to Sabbath, verses to help develop a biblical understanding and framework for Sabbath as well as my favorite resources (with a giveaway!) and a Q&A post. Stay tuned!