Honoring the Sabbath

Back in July, I wrote a post on The Cornerstone blog (my main website for teachers) about taking a sabbath rest each week. I had considered writing about it here, but I figured it was a topic that lots of educators would be interested in even if they weren't Christian, as so many of us struggle with the 24/7 work mentality. (You can read the post here: Connectivity Addition: Taking a Weekly Day of Rest. In it, I explain why and how I decided to observe the sabbath.)

There were many people who responded, saying they, too, longed for a time to nourish their souls and step away from their computers and cell phones. In fact, I'm still getting emails from people about the topic: they're curious, but not sure where to start. So I thought I'd share a little bit about my first sabbath observance here with you all. If anyone reading has considered taking a day of rest, this post might inspire you to try it out. And if you're already observing the sabbath in your own way, I encourage you to share your experiences in the comments so you can encourage others!

Let me start by saying that my life is not as crazy as many of yours. I realize this and don't mean to sound flippant (Everyone should take an entire day to do nothing!) I don't have kids, so that alone means I have more time to myself. And I make my own work schedule. But the problem with that is there are no boundaries. I work at 2 am sometimes. I work on Saturday mornings. I work through lunch and then through dinner. When you own your own business, no one tells you to go to work, but no one ever tells you to come home, either. There are no holidays or designated vacation time. Work can easily consume your entire life, and in many ways, it had consumed mine.

The very first time I planned to observe a sabbath rest (from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown), I looked forward to it all week. Whenever I was tired, I'd remind myself I'd have an entire day to relax. But the strange thing is that I started getting anxious on Thursday night. I felt overwhelmed by all the things I needed to do before sundown Friday. And by Friday afternoon, I was almost panicking. It didn't help that there was a major meltdown in communication with some DOE paperwork that required cc'ing eight million people. Then someone emailed me wanting their webinar password, and someone else emailed with a question about the eBook download. What if I shut down my email and these people didn't get a response until 24 hours later? Would they be mad? [The answer sometimes, by the way, is yes.]

I had plans to have dinner with a friend, so I relunctantly shut down my computer (okay, that's a lie, I just put it to sleep; I can't shut it down because that means in a computer "emergency", I might have to wait 3 minutes to start using it. I am hopeless.) I turned off the push notifications on my iPhone so that new emails wouldn't flash across my screen. And then I started my day of rest.

Dinner was wonderful. I came home and resisted the urge to check my website statistics and do some networking online. I checked my email to make sure the world hadn't fallen apart on me, but I didn't respond to anyone. I was relieved to see that everything could wait until tomorrow night. And then I crawled in bed to read on my iPad. That was the first moment I enjoyed it--knowing I could read and only read, no work.

The next morning I slept in and took my Bible and a mug of coffee out onto the balcony to read. With nothing else I "needed" to get done, I spent an hour and a half pouring over the scriptures. I can't remember the last time I was that focused on the Word. I had lunch, did some reading, gave myself a pedicure, watched some TV.

As the sun made its way across the sky, I started to feel sad that the sabbath was coming to an end. I had started really enjoying it. I decided to end the day at church (there's a 6 pm Saturday service at my church that is the same as the Sunday morning services.)

When I came out of church, I decied not to turn my email notifications back on my phone. That was three months ago, and I haven't turned them back on since. Sure, I'll check manually from time to time, but I am no longer a slave to the ding! of the constant iPhone notifications. I am determine to check email when it makes sense to do so, not just out of habit or boredom.

I have observed the sabbath in some way every single weekend since July. Sometimes I follow more strict guidelines about what I can and can't do, while I'm more laid back at other times. I try to follow the Spirit's leading on that. If I haven't had a stressful week, I might end the sabbath early or allow myself to do some reading online. But if I've felt discouraged, irritable, or distant from God or my husband, I try to shut everything else out for those 24 hours and reconnect with the Lord and everything that really matters in life.

The more "set aside" my sabbath day of rest is, the better I feel afterward. My aim is to both remember the sabbath AND keep it holy. I can take shortcuts and make excuses, but when the sabbath starts to resembles the rest of the workweek, I don't experience that fresh connection with God and the sense of rejuvenation that comes with spending time with Him. It takes self-discipline to observe the sabbath, for sure. But for me, it's been well worth it. I've reaped the benefits in every area of my life.

Do you observe the sabbath or take a weekly day of rest? Please share your experiences in the comments. We'd love to read your thoughts!


Fawn S. said...

Thank you for sharing your Sabbath experience! I'm a Seventh-day Adventist and observe the Sabbath weekly and I'm always so thankful for it. Your description of what Sabbath is about is a great reminder. I teach at an Adventist school and happen to be in charge of worship this week, I can't wait to share your post with my coworkers.

POLITE said...

I'm a Seventh-day Adventist too and stumbled across this post in an effort to find a devotional thought for today. We were just brainstorming last week about how crazy people's lives must be without the Sabbath. I'm glad you shed light on life with and without it!

Kathy Beagles said...

Well, Angela, I really enjoyed your post about Sabbath, just as I did reading all of your devotionals earlier this year. I really do believe that God was giving us a special blessing, gift-wrapped, in the middle of His request that we love Him with all of our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. Like so many of His blessings, they are right there to receive and yet many times we go about pouting that He "requires" these blessings. The devil certainly wants to keep everything backwards and up-side-down when it comes to the way we see, understand, and love God.

Thomas said...

I tried this fall to always rest on Sundays. Unfortunately with three kids in three different sports it didn't work out perfectly. The good point is that it made me focus more on at least not cleaning on sundays after church and I tried to take a walk by myself, read or journal. It really helps my connection with God and makes my week less stressful.

Anonymous said...

Glory and praise for the Lord of the Sabbath!