On Monday morning, I forego the alarm clock and allow myself to get out of bed more slowly. It’s enough time to get my son to school but still allows for a slower start. I drink my tea in relative quiet, brush my teeth, and sport a ball cap and workout clothes for school drop-off. When he is settled in his classroom, I make my way back through the narrow pathway that cuts through to our street, grab my water bottle, and drive to a nearby bush reserve with my husband. The hike through the bush reserve is 1,349 steps straight up (plus another 150 on the access trail). I focus intently on the green flora, the birdsongs, and my deep breathing as I climb step after step. This is Sabbath. It is what reminds me that it’s God’s breath in my lungs, in the song of the birds, and in the unfurling of the fern fronds.
Sabbath reminds me that my work is never finished—and that’s as it should be. It’s an act of faith, reminding me once again that God sustains me. God provides. God is making all things new. I am a participant in the work, but the weight of it does not rest solely on my shoulders. After all, I am not experiencing sights and sounds made by my own might or creative power.
Early this year, I felt a significant nudge to get serious about my Sabbath practices. There it was on the same list as “You shall have no other Gods before me” and “Do not murder.” It was important enough to God to model immediately after doing the utmost important work of setting the world into motion. Yet I was only doing it halfway and skipping over it entirely if something more pressing popped up. My attempts at Sabbath lacked intentionality and were laden with guilt for the things I felt I should be accomplishing instead. Yet this faithful act of surrender before God was the very thing to which I was called. There’s a freedom in distinguishing between Sabbath—a day of rest, renewal, and trust in God’s provision—and the Lord’s day, which for our pastoral family is full-on and self-emptying. It’s also compelling to acknowledge that this matters to God, and it should matter to me. Made in the very image of God, I too should rest.
I paid attention to what was life-giving for me (moving my body, nature, reading, creating, planting, quiet) and what wasn’t (laundry, cooking extensive meals, cleaning, errands, noise). And then I leaned in, guarding that time carefully, setting boundaries and sticking to them, trusting God to sustain my life and my work. I planned ahead, making sure there was simple food in the fridge, the house was clean, and the laundry in a manageable state, so those things weren’t causing unnecessary stress. Then I made space for a whole day of Sabbath, beginning on Monday morning.
There isn’t anything particularly magical or sacred about a Monday. In fact, many wise folks have said it’s better for folks in ministry to carve out time later in the week when energy levels have recuperated and to use Mondays for simple office tasks. It’s sound advice. Monday simply happens to be the day that works best in the rhythm of our life and weekly schedule. Sabbath practice is more about making regular space for the practice itself than it is about waiting for perfection. It’s about holding all the demands, expectations, hopes, and ambitions of life with open hands, surrendering them to the Creator of all things. It’s about holding space to let our cups be filled by the Giver of life so we may pour life into others. It’s about surrendering the temptation to do all the things and have all the things in a culture that is obsessed with consumerism and addicted to the adrenaline of frenzied achievements.
Sabbath practice is more about making regular space for the practice itself than it is about waiting for perfection. It’s about holding all the demands, expectations, hopes, and ambitions of life with open hands, surrendering them to the Creator of all things.
It’s about leaning into and actually living by Jesus’s words from the Sermon on the Mount, rather than blowing them off or brushing by them.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25–34)
It’s about acknowledging that the Sabbath was the first thing God deemed sacred in all of creation, which gives it high value. Then it’s about saying no to that which might rival the place in our hearts and lives that God and the things God values should hold, so that we might fully say yes to God.
After the heart-pumping hike in the native bush on Monday morning, I’ll eat some gently sautéed kale with lemon fresh from my tree and a couple of eggs, read a book, paint an old piece of furniture, or walk the dog, and then it will be time to pick the boy up from school. We’ll begin the week’s homework routines, read together on the couch, eat a simple dinner, go to bed with a book, and ease into the week ahead. Tomorrow will begin early. It will be a full day with things known and unknown. There will be much work to accomplish. But this day was for Sabbath.