The Spirit of Sabbath & One Woman’s Struggle With It
“My name is Jaime, and I’m chronically overscheduled.”
There might not be a twelve-step program for women like me, but I have a feeling I’m not alone.
As I’ve been praying about and reflecting on how I’d like my life to look different in 2020, the word “sabbath” keeps coming to mind. I’m not thinking of it in only the literal sense of keeping one day set apart for rest and worship (although I could use work on that as well… maybe that’s another post for another day!). What I mean is more of the spirit of sabbath: that my life, my family’s life, and our home would be permeated by a spirit of peace, rest, and worship.
5 Lessons I’ve Been Learning About The Spirit of Sabbath
Here are a few things God has been showing me about what the spirit of sabbath means in my own life:
1.) A Spirit of Sabbath Results From an Identity Securely Rooted in Christ.
What I’ve found is that my compulsion to over-schedule has resulted from misplaced identity.
Deep down, I don’t think I consider myself valuable or worthy of approval if I’m not constantly doing something. When we have people over I spend so much time buzzing around worrying about whether everyone has what they need that I fail to connect with people on a meaningful level. I think I’m afraid that if I sit down I’ll be looked upon as lazy or idle by others when in reality I think I might just end up making everyone as nervous as I am.Jaime is sharing 5 lessons God has been teaching her about the spirit of sabbath on Candidly Christian… Click To Tweet
In the past, I have said “yes” to everything anyone asked of me to the point of total burnout, all because I feel like my value to them is based on what I do, not who I am. But in doing this I override the plans God has for me (not to mention others) by saying yes to everything without consulting God about what jobs He would have me do.
Good Things Aren’t Always The Best Things…
Lately, this has been especially hard. My kids are all in school for the first time in almost 14 years. If I’m being really, brutally honest I’ll admit that the idea terrified me. I had this perception that people would know I was a stay-at-home mom with all kids in school and that my value would be diminished in their eyes because I wasn’t being productive (at least as far as “they” were concerned; whoever “they” were!).
So what did I do?
I volunteered 5 days a week in my kids’ schools.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this time in the kids’ classrooms! It has been one of the highlights of my year. But once again, I didn’t really consult God before jumping in with both feet. I just wanted to be sure I was covered and involved in activities that made me feel productive and valuable.
Sometimes I wear my busyness like a badge of honor. Sometimes it’s an excuse why my house isn’t really in order (both physically and figuratively) like I’d hope for it to be. But one constant is that my need to over-schedule chokes out the spirit of sabbath my soul longs for.
2.) A Spirit of Sabbath Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Saying No To Everything.
Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees about breaking the sabbath (Mark 3) and about His disciples reaping and eating grain on the sabbath (Matthew 12). He was very clear that sabbath “rest” didn’t always mean doing nothing.
My temptation has been that in striving for a spirit of sabbath in 2020 I need to pull back from everything and choose “no” for my word of the year. But I think God brought the word “sabbath” to mind as opposed to “no” because there are times when things that seem like work (like taking care of basic needs as the disciples did and serving others like Jesus did when he healed) can actually be blessed by God and used to restore and energize us.
God taught me a very important lesson about this a couple of years ago, and it has come back to my mind as I’ve asked Him to help me understand what sabbath should look like in my own life. I was supposed to serve in the Cold Weather Shelter our church hosts weekly in the winter months, which for my shift means being present and awake at our church one Sunday night a month from 2 am to 6 am Monday morning with a partner. I have to confess, I dread the loss of sleep each month. It can take days to recover, but knowing I’m helping families with children not have to sleep on the streets or in their cars or at more dangerous shelters makes it totally worth it for me.
I’m Glad I Said Yes…
One-day several years ago I wasn’t feeling well and had a horrible attitude about going to the shelter that night. I stopped and prayed and confessed the ugliness of my heart, and offered the time as an act of worship to God. I asked God to provide me with one interaction with someone that would have eternal value.
Typically at that time of night, I have little or no interaction with the guests at the shelter because they’re sleeping. So when a woman woke up and needed to talk that night, I considered it a direct answer to prayer. We talked and prayed and I was able to give her a Bible. I came away from that night with joy in my heart and feeling energized and renewed. I wasn’t even very tired over the following days. So saying yes to the divine appointment God had for me that day served as my sabbath. It brought peace, joy and rest for my soul, even though it involved a sleepless night and the “work” of conversation and prayer.
I’m not saying there isn’t a time to say no, and I believe as I filter my schedule through God’s priorities I will end up shedding many things I considered necessary. But I have realized that I can’t assume that a spirit of sabbath simply means saying no to everyone and everything.
3.) The Answer to My Over-Scheduling Might Be More Scheduling.
…or at least different scheduling.
I need to schedule white space.
There may come a time in our family’s life when white space and “being still” just happens, but we need to re-train ourselves first.
I think the first step is to schedule home-time and make sure that time is free from electronic distractions and full of meaningful engagement with each other, or downtime with no expectations. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like but I’m hoping it will honor the spirit of sabbath.
4.) Sabbath Involves People.
Relationships have slipped through the cracks of my over-scheduled life. I find myself putting friends off, even for phone calls or quick coffee dates. As an introvert, I don’t mind (okay I love) time alone. But if I only equate rest with alone time I think my entire family will miss out on the beautiful gift of fellowship. So I want to be intentional about incorporating people into my sabbath plans – I just need God’s help to keep it from becoming the scenario where I try to play “hostess with the mostest” and miss the point! (You can go ahead and say a prayer for me now!)
5.) The Spirit of Sabbath Can Happen In The Cracks & Crevices of Life.
Someone said that busy is a state of mind.
Sometime last year I found myself in a grocery store feeling anxious and hurried and that thought came to my mind so I stopped and realized I really wasn’t in a hurry and this time walking up and down the aisles could actually be relaxing if I let it be. I prayed something like this: “Thank you God for this time of rest. Thank you for children who are getting along and time to shop without having a pressing appointment to get to.” I took a breath and felt a spirit of peace wash over me. When we take many small opportunities like this throughout the day to simply give thanks to God, recognize a peaceful moment, or set a timer for even just a one-minute prayer, they will add up and saturate our day with a spirit of sabbath. That’s my hope and my goal for the upcoming year!
Join the Conversation
How do you like to cultivate a spirit of sabbath in your own life? Share in the comments!The spirit of sabbath can happen in the cracks and crevices of life. Find out more in this post on Candidly Christian… Click To Tweet
Related Resource For Christian Women
If you are tired, stressed out, or overwhelmed, Candid Gal, Laura J. Marshall invites you on her journey to enter into the rest that refreshes and find freedom from weariness. This is A Mom’s Battle Cry for Rest.
Oh Jaime. How coincidental that this post was published today of all days. I’m so buried by my to-do list. I’m over-scheduled today, plus the kids are out of school. Plus I had to drive out of town to take something to my husband he needed for work. Plus I have a migraine. Plus I forgot to eat breakfast. So, of course, I skipped my quiet time. And lunch. Talk about a string of bad decisions. I was getting ready to put in some extra hours, but I think I’m just going to unplug instead. Thanks for this timely reminder.
Don’t you just love God’s timing? I could have taken my own advice today but didn’t and found myself getting really cranky with everyone as the stress level mounted. It’s 7:30pm here right now – never too late to take steps toward a spirit of sabbath! ??
Jaime, I often think of taking an intentional sabbath–and it never lasts, because it has always felt so black & white. I appreciate the opportunity to reframe it in more of a gray area! “Hostess with the Mostess” really resonated with me here. Because we don’t have local family, we try to spend many Sundays having dinner with friends. Usually at our house. Which means I put pressure on myself–mostly for the cleaning part. I still struggle with this, but we’ve backed off on our frequency of hosting Sunday dinners and have found that some Sundays it’s nice to be ‘just us.’ As an introvert (the only one in my family of 5), I was afraid everyone else would feel a lack…a wanting of community. But it turns out that ‘some Sundays’ is actually better than ‘all Sundays’ for everyone. Because sometimes extroverts don’t realize just how much they need a rest, too!
Yes! I take my Sabbath throughout the week in pockets of time where I rest, intentionally grow and pray. Homeschooling and building a home as a family means that we are always together, and a mother’s work is never done! But this way I pace myself and never burn out. Great ideas!
I came through Grace + Truth 🙂
I think by doing that you’re giving your kids a great gift by example that they can carry through life! Thanks so much for stopping by, Sarah!
Yikes, #1 one stung a little. I have been working on keeping the sabbath for years, not only on Sunday but throughout the week. I loved your post so much I am going to feature it this Friday on Grace & Truth Link-Up. I am going to keep my comments at a minimum here while I process your words throughout the week. Thank you for your wisdom and for hitting all of my buttons. I needed it.
What an honor, thanks so much Maree! I’d love for you to share any insights God gives you along the way! ??
Thank you for this post! I’ve always believed in Sabbath rest, but you brought up some aspects I hadn’t considered before. I’ve thought, too, that true rest meant quietness and solitude (probably due to my introvert tendencies), but biblically it does involve people. The idea of resting in the Lord all the time reminds me of one of my favorite verses: “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). That verse, sadly, ends. “And ye would not.” May God give us grace to rest in Him all the time.
That verse hit REALLY close to home, Barbara – but I love it! It’s going to be written somewhere prominent in my home (or car…or both!) from now on. Thank you so much for sharing!
This is such a post meant for me, Jaime. My goal is to take a technology Sabbath on Sundays this year. Not a total one but at least pare back. It’s my attempt to schedule more white space into my schedule.
But it’s really the spirit of the Sabbath that I want to develop every day, not just Sundays, whether with technology or other things. Your lessons here hit it on the nose with me too.
How wonderful that you volunteer for such a hard shift at your Cold Weather Shelter. And kudos to your church for doing that! We have many large churches in our town who would have the capacity for that, but only one very small church that does it regularly with such consistency and love. 🙁 Granted, it’s not needed too often here (I live in Alabama) but definitely is needed during several periods every winter.
Lisa, I love the idea of a tech sabbath. I’m trying to do mini-versions of that at home too. The Cold Weather Shelter is an amazing program – I live in Alaska where it definitely gets cold in the winter, and local churches recognized the need to provide safe, warm places for children and their families to sleep because of an increasing problem with kids sleeping in cars or worse during winter months and not being able to sleep well or get homework done. There’s a whole network of churches who participate, it makes me so proud of our inter-denominational church community here that really considers themselves the Church with a capital “C”!
Jamie, I’m so glad to have found you via Maree Dee’s site. What a great topic for us busy women!
Eugene Peterson wrote so many good words about Sabbath, and I’ve written the shortest one down on my calendar so I won’t forget it: “Take nothing for granted. And do it every week.”
Michele, I love that quote. If I did that weekly, I’d be a different person! Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thanks for this article. I can relate to number 1, doing and getting my worth from that. That was how I was raised and then it is my personality. Love your ideas here and that rest can be in small burst through the day and with friends. I know some of my resting times come when getting together with friends (often going out so I don’t fall into the hovering hostess syndrome) or walking with family. I tend to think of recharging on my own, so I loved this and it helped me rethink this area.
I think I’ll steal the term “hovering hostess syndrome”? I love it! I’m always so glad when my own struggles (and lessons learned!) resonate with someone else. That’s why I love Candidly Christian, we can all be real and move forward together! God bless you!
Love love love this blog.. this is one of my main studies for this year…. I have heard or seen the word Sabbath 5 times in a row within a few days and I get it God….”study on the Sabbath” that is me… so here goes. Thanks for writing this.
Thanks Stephanie! I have some study and implementation to do myself…writing the post is one thing, living it out is another thing altogether. Pray for me and I’ll be praying for you! ??