I lay awake at night, my mind buzzing. So many things to do, so many loose ends. I debated about getting up, and then reminded myself: this isn’t the time. Now is the time when I can lay all of that down and rest. Now is the time for sleep.
That doesn’t always work, but that night it did. There is a time to work and to carry burdens, and there’s a time to lay them down. On a nightly basis we’re reminded that we must lay down our burdens and rest. But it’s not enough to rest nightly. We’re also meant to lay down these burdens weekly and rest.
A Gift and the Cost
Sabbath is both a gift and a sacrifice.
On one hand, it’s a gift. We get to stop working. Once a week we’re released of all our obligations. We can play, relate, and worship. No matter how busy our lives, we’re invited from duty to delight. What a gift for the overloaded and overextended, and everyone else too.
But it costs. The Sabbath is an act of obedience. In order to rest, we must acknowledge our limits and entrust our unfinished tasks and burdens to God. I’m guessing that many of us struggle to take a regular Sabbath because the cost is too high. We believe we can’t stop. We struggle to believe that we have the time to stop, that we can release the burdens we were never meant to carry every day of the week.
The cost of the Sabbath can rob us of the gift of the Sabbath. But it’s worth paying the cost so we can enjoy the gift.
Where to Start
So where should we start in observing the Sabbath? Everyone’s different, but I have three suggestions.
First: one day a week, tell yourself what I told myself in the middle of the night: this isn’t the time for work. Now is the time when I can lay all of that down and rest. Now is the time for Sabbath. I can pick up my work and my concerns tomorrow, but this is not the time.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably have to remind yourself a lot at first, but it’s worth the effort. Keep reminding yourself that there will be time for everything you need to get done, but not on the Sabbath.
Second, start reading about Sabbath and rest. Pick up books like Reset (for men), Refresh (for women), The Radical Pursuit of Rest, or Subversive Sabbath. Taking Sabbath is so countercultural that we need all the help we can get to begin thinking differently about it.
And then experiment. Be patient. If you’re not used to taking a regular Sabbath it will probably take some time to figure it out. You may feel like you’re failing at first, so expect to struggle. It’s worth hanging in there until you’ve payed the cost and can begin to enjoy the gift.
“The Sabbath is a gift we do not know how to receive,” writes A.J. Swoboda. But it’s time to learn how to receive this gift. We need the gift of Sabbath.