Sabbath delight

I am thirsting for rest — not just for rest of body, but also rest of spirit. I thirst for a chance to step out of my important work to remember my true place in the delightful work of God. So tomorrow I am determined to begin a Sabbath practice again.

In preparation for that, I am looking again at my practice from a couple years ago. It was inspired by a class on Sabbath in which we read, Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Sabbath, an exquisitely beautiful book. He writes about Sabbath as a gift of a sanctuary in time, especially needed today in the midst of our modern attempts to bend time to our will.

I was also inspired by Marva Dawn’s book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, in which she works with a Christian understanding of Sabbath to identify four movements in the concept of Sabbath: ceasing, resting, embracing, feasting. With this emphasis, she works to counter the misunderstanding that Sabbath is about prohibitions and obligations by drawing connections to the wholeness and joy that can come from attuning our rhythm with God’s.

Given all of that, I’d like to share the way in which I have imagined and practiced Sabbath (can you tell I’m a list-maker?). This is but one possibility among many, it is specific to my own spiritual needs and life, and it is a practice in progress. In hopes that it might inspire your own practice or that it might inspire you to share your own practice with others…


Day before Sabbath:
tidy apartment (put all work, lists, books away; put everything in its proper place, take out trash if needed)
shop for any groceries or supplies needed (including creative or cooking supplies)
finish any work that cannot wait a day
do all of this with care and intention — as preparing for a guest

To welcome Sabbath:
attend an evening worship if possible
pick a Sabbath quote to post on Facebook, close out all internet activities
make tea
turn on music
light candle with prayer (naming any worries and giving them to God for at least 25 hours; thanksgiving for creation, love,…; welcoming and dedicating the Sabbath)
enjoy tea, candle, music until bed
if desired, think through possible activities — being careful not to attach schedule or expectations on any of them
go to bed, don’t set an alarm

anything that feels like work or has any pressure to perform or produce
using money
scheduled activities, looking at the time
internet and screens
worries and lists
things that make me sad or heavy

outside activities, physical activities with no pressure
cooking playfully
eating intentionally and slowly
prayer and other ways of connecting with God
reading for fun, piano and music for fun
activities with others
playing with cats, play and laughter in general
writing letters (with no pressure)
God hunt (where have I seen God in the last week, where do I find God today…)
general delight
favorite foods (in moderation)

End of Sabbath:
light candle again with prayer (thanks for Sabbath, work, and rest; dedication of work week)
Sabbath ends just before bedtime — set alarm for next day
try not to check e-mail or Facebook (or do work) until the following morning

By far, the most important (and difficult) practices of this have been the lack of schedule (and the freedom from clocks) and the freedom from work and screens. The quality of the space that opened up in me because of these practices was astounding, balancing, and joy-nurturing.

But the hard part is that Sabbath is not utilitarian — it’s part of the foolishness of faith that only makes sense through experience and in the framework of God’s Story. So on the eve of my first Sabbath in a while, I find myself anxious and needing to summon all my courage in order to let go of my grip on my work, schedules, lists, clocks, internet…. I feel as though the world might just fall apart in the next 25 hours… and maybe without all that stuff I won’t actually know who I am… and yet, by God’s grace, I am determined to dive in anyway, sensing the call of Christ to jump in the deep end on this one. Who knows what wonders I might discover there.

One of the things I remember most clearly from the class on Sabbath is this: if I wait until I have time for Sabbath, I will never do it. There will always be more good work to fill the time. The very act of setting apart time for the Holy within the weekly will reorient all time, but beginning must be a leap of faith.

So here I go… I’ll be back in internet communication on Saturday morning. Until then, I leave you with a quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel:

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”

And a question: What do you or would you include in your Sabbath practice, ritual, and spirit?

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