Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” — Exodus 20:8-11
As a single Christian woman, I practiced Sabbath (or a day of rest) every week. It was “scheduled” into my calendar so that I wasn’t tempted to see a free day to fill up with obligations and commitments. This time was spent in solitude, studying the Bible and reading other books, being in nature and reflecting on all that God has done for me, as well as connecting with other people. Paul helped me solidify what Sabbath looked like when we were dating & newly married as well.
As life has ebbed and flowed and my roles have changed, it has been a struggle to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest. I’ve often fought these changes, wanting to keep the structure of what Sabbath used to look like for me and trying to re-attain that ideal.
Especially as a mother now, where toddlers provide never-ending activity, discipline, and opportunities to be sanctified, I struggle with knowing what our Sabbath looks like sometimes. The pressures of needing to get the housework done, feeding my family, doing all the unfinished projects and organizing around the house, being in ministry, and still finding time to study the Bible, write, and resting is a constant battle for me.
I need to remember that as these seasons of life transition so will my practice of resting. This is my stage in life right now, it’s chaotic and exhausting, and that’s ok – there’s grace extended for me – but I still need to rest and my family needs rest.
Here are some things God has taught me about how Sabbath can be beneficial as a family:
1. It requires us to slow down & enjoy one another. We can simply unplug and play together. We take walks, we play games, we go to the park, we have fun. As a family, our activities for “rest” are different than taking it easy and reading books, though we do that sometimes – mostly the kids’ books – but the benefit of simply being together as a family far outweighs the type of activities we do.
2. It’s a day of ZERO (unnecessary) work. Obviously we will be required to “work” in parenting our toddlers. We will never get “time off” from doing that so discipline & teaching come up each day. However, I do not do housework, no cleaning or fixing or organizing. I don’t cook any meals, we eat leftovers. We don’t work on necessary projects like fixing things, or yard work. This requires us find time throughout the week to get these things done, it requires us to use our time wisely. It also requires us to give ourselves grace in our “obligations”. There is freedom from performing when you’re motivated to honor God and connect as a family instead of getting tasks done.
3. It’s a witness. The world often looks at me like I’m crazy when I deny putting an activity on our calendar, even if it’s a really good one, because I want to guard our time and ensure that we are resting. This act of guarding our time has provided a lot of opportunity to talk about why we choose to do it.
4. It teaches my kids that obeying God is more important than pleasing man. They are able to see we decline certain things in order to simply obey the Lord. We are able to refresh our spirits so that we can do those things later on without feeling burnt out.
5. It can still be consistent, even with young kids. Currently our time of Sabbath is on Sundays. It’s the day that we worship and spend the rest of the day with no agenda or obligations. Every once in a while this changes because we’re on a trip or something necessary comes up, but we make every effort to keep it consistent. As our kids grow, it will be easier to be consistent as they will be less “needy” for constant attention and direction. They will also learn to schedule things around a day of rest because it will be the same day every week. We are establishing the expectation at an early age so that there is already a habit of doing it as they grow.
6. It’s a sacrifice. There is wisdom in saying NO to more things to do, yet sometimes those events we say no to are things we would really like to do. It’s a sacrifice of our flesh to make our family’s reconnection and rest a priority. However, I’d rather we make sure we get enough rest and rejuvenation than pack our schedules full with good things that wear us out over time. Protecting my kids from burn-out, and myself & husband as well, requires wisdom in choosing how to make our routines and organize our calendar. I don’t know what Sabbath will look like when my kids get older, and potentially have activities or sports on Sundays. But we are already talking about what boundaries we may be making in the future. Obeying and bringing glory to God requires sacrifice. It is in these gifts that God provides us with the conversations about godly things with our kids and enables us to simply enjoy being together and to carry on through the next week before we rest again.