My husband and I felt pleased as we admired the gleaming white subway tile we had installed for a backsplash during our DIY kitchen renovation. Beautiful! Except for the one corner where we had run out of grout at 10pm to finish tiling the wall. Though we had made a lot of headway on the project, we had a busy week- trying to wrap up loose ends with work before vacation, putting in extra hours to account for time away, cleaning our house, and packing for the trip. Every morning I came downstairs and stared at the one corner without tile. I kept wondering if I could just push my tired body to install the last few rows! If I could stay up a little later to catch up on work reports and then jump into the tile project! I realized was struggling to put down the project even though nothing in my schedule afforded me the time to complete it. The tile had begun to pursue me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Challenges to Sabbath rest
In Exodus 20:8 God commands his people to take a sabbath rest as part of the guidelines for how to live well. Later in Mark 2:27 (NLT) Jesus says “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” A friend once described the practice of Sabbath as “putting down what pursues you.” This definition has stuck with me as I consider the drive to work harder professionally or to meet personal goals. When I consider what’s pursuing me, I think about the things I’m tempted to push myself a little harder to accomplish even if I’m mentally or physically fatigued. The tile backsplash is still not complete and we left for vacation. Do you know what happened? Nothing. No one got mad at me. We left and I enjoyed playing games, fishing and going hiking with my family. The remaining tiles will be there when I get home when I can allot the time to complete it.
God’s command to practice the sabbath is a positive command. DO this, rather than a command not to do something. Sabbath is a gift God has given us but we often have barriers that make it difficult to enter into a day or set aside time of rest. Life begins to feel like a never-ending grind with an ever-changing to do list. Different seasons of life present different challenges. In grad school there are exams to study for. Crying babies that are still nursing, busy toddlers and special needs kids who can’t be left alone make it impossible to take a whole day of rest. It’s difficult if you work non-traditional hours to have friends over for a relaxing time if you get off work at midnight or are on call. Mentally we often have endless to do lists of what we *should* be doing if we have a spare minute (ahem, hello backsplash!)
Rhythms that help you find rest
If you’re new to practicing sabbath consider what you actually find restful and a rhythm that works for you. We begin our sabbath on Friday evening and end it at 3pm on Saturday. There is no rule that says you need to practice sabbath on a Sunday! Our family finds it restful to sleep in on Saturdays, eat pancakes and then go for a hike or kayak at a local lake. For me, working from home this past year has required a change of scenery to physically remove myself from house projects and my laptop that remind me of things I want or need to do. When our kids were little and we didn’t have much money for childcare we would trade off with parenting duties to give each other space to experience sabbath rest. I would head to a local coffeeshop dive into a thick novel while I sipped my latte. My husband would build things in his woodshop or go for a bike ride. We took naps! Sabbath is meant to help us feel restored and refreshed in the unique ways God created us. That might look like playing an instrument, trying a new recipe, or enjoying uninterrupted time to meet and talk with a friend.
Make a plan
Make a plan ahead of time and communicate it to others. Setting your phone for down time so you don’t see emails come through, picking up your living space the day before, preparing food or ordering takeout, and letting people in your life know that you are taking down time, are all ways that can help you enter into sabbath. If you have a hard time letting go of the things that pursue you, keep a “brain dump” list to write down the things you’re thinking about so you can come back to them after a time of rest.
Sabbath reminds us that we are human. The world doesn’t end if we don’t complete house projects or send that last non-urgent email. When we practice sabbath we acknowledge that we need rest, we are more than the sum of what we can accomplish, and that God is the one in control, not us. If Sabbath seems like a goal that is far from a reality, pray and reflect on what is holding you back. God wants to give you good gifts through rest. He understands your struggles and still invites you into pausing to be refreshed in your body and spirit. This week, even if you take a few hours to rest and be refreshed, God wants to help you find peace and refreshment in the midst of the things that pursue you.
Jessica Leep Fick is the Director of Engagement at Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village, KS. She is also training to be a real estate appraiser while parenting two boys with her husband Dave. She has still not finished the tile backsplash and has made peace with it.