Remember the Sabbath Day

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

How can we find a way to taste the goodness of Sabbath or, better yet, to incorporate it into our lives on a regular basis? Observing the Sabbath, even partially and imperfectly, will require us to make decisions. Can we designate one day a week, perhaps a Saturday or Sunday, or even one day a month for a special Sabbath meal? If that seems too hard, perhaps we can begin by setting aside an afternoon and evening.

Andrea Doering is a professional woman, wife, and mother who decided a few years ago to begin celebrating a day of rest with her family. She remembers what provoked the decision. Looking forward to her vacation, she had been working overtime to make sure everything was done before heading out. But by the time her vacation rolled around, she was so exhausted that she became sick and didn't recover until she returned home. At least one good thing resulted from that wretched vacation--the realization that rest isn't something she was supposed to save up.

Longing for more balance in her life, she decided that God's best idea for rest could be found by observing the Sabbath. What if she and her family were to set aside one day a week to reset? Noting that her job required her to sell things, she realized that she was interacting either as a consumer or as a seller every day of the week. So that was the first thing to go. No shopping for 24 hours--not even checking prices on her favorite website.

Though her children objected, she also decided that there would be no play dates on that day. She felt guilty at first, but she knew how difficult it was for her to rest whenever one of her children went off somewhere. There were always practical arrangements to make, getting them ready, dropping them off, or picking them up.

Other decisions included no family parties on that special day and no chores. She was even careful to put away any visual reminders of work, stashing briefcases and backpacks out of sight. Now she and her family observe their day of rest beginning Friday night and ending Saturday night, or starting Saturday morning and ending after Sunday morning worship service.

How does Doering get everything done the rest of the week? She shops for groceries on Sunday afternoon, relegating other shopping trips to weeknights. The unexpected dividend of that arrangement is that weeknight outings are automatically limited to two hours or less because of school and work the next day.

How has her family responded? Her husband is firmly on board. Though her children aren't always thrilled with the limitations of the day, they appreciate having one day free to sleep in and do whatever they want. Setting aside a definite time of rest has become, for her and her family, a declaration of independence. They are no longer slaves to consumerism or to the clock.

Observing a day of rest has also brought some surprising insights. When Doering subtracted the chores, the shopping, and the other responsibilities that had always defined her life, she felt adrift, uncertain of how she should spend the time. It had been so long since she'd had time to herself that she couldn't even remember what she liked to do, so she made a list of everything that sounded fun and enjoyable to her: cycling, kayaking, gardening, playing games with the family, even talking on the phone with her sisters--these had been pushed aside by the daily routine. Now there was time to enjoy them again.

Doering was also surprised to note that most of her conversations with her children involved telling them what to do: "Remember your lunch." "Pick up your clothes." "Get ready for school." Suddenly there was no need for such instructions because there was nothing they had to do. For their part, her children were delighted to have a Sabbath rest from being told what to do all the time. Since then, their mother has found ways to focus more of her conversation on things that interest them.

Having the time to reflect on her life brought with it the realization that God isn't as interested in balance as she is: "Balance says that all things should be equal, but God says that nothing is equal to him." That insight put everything in its proper place. Nothing took precedence over her relationship with God.

Is she ever tempted to revert to life as it used to be now that her children are teenagers? Doering answers with a definite no. It can be challenging to be out of sync with the rest of the world, she admits, but she and her family have experienced too many benefits from their day of rest to return to their old ways.





Originally published April 14, 2020.