The often talked about (in religious circles) and often neglected practice of Sabbath is key to a healthy rhythm of life. In 2013, I had the opportunity to take a group of eight people to Israel and through the Holy Land. On a Friday evening we were staying in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberias as it is now known. We were walking through the village and down to the water around 5 PM. Shops were closing down and the streets were emptying out. We were witnessing Sabbath as it is traditionally practiced. Sabbath in its truest form is a reminder of the six days of creation and a day of rest as well as a time to remember the Exodus out of Egypt. It's a 24 hour period in which rest is embraced and work is left behind. It is a rebellion against slavery, against production, against finding our worth in our work and it embraces relationships, care, and love for the world around us.
In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzaro says, "On the Sabbath, we embrace our limits." It's a reminder that the world will continue on without us. We are not indispensable. Rather, in this moment, we're reminded of the others around us, their worth and importance, and have the opportunity to delight in the world around us.
Practicing Sabbath though is not easy. In the world we live in, we encouraged to do more, to produce more, to collect more, to spend more, to buy more, to be more, to work more, and in the end we are simply out of time. Our schedules become full. Our calendars are packed. There is not enough time to be with others. Rather, we find ourselves often distracted, multi-tasking, and ignoring those we are with. Frankly, not many of us are actually doing any of that well.
As it was for the earliest Jews, Sabbath is still a rebellion against our culture today.
Sabbath will not come easily or without some intentional planning. If it's not a part of your weekly rhythm, here are five steps to take to practice Sabbath this week.
Choose a day. What day will you practice Sabbath. Don't worry about every week, just think about this week. What day will be easiest for you? What day can you set aside? What day has the least amount of things on it? It's just that easy. Got your day selected? Ok, good work, now to step 2.
Clear your calendar. Seriously, what else is on your calendar for the day you selected? Clear it. Cancel your plans. Move that task to a different day. Now, write in your calendar "Sabbath" and block out the time. You have an appointment to find joy in the world around you.
Decide how you will spend the time. What brings you joy? What cause you to delight in the world and those around you? What fills your heart? These are the things you want to do on the Sabbath. Like to swing in a hammock reading a book. Do that. Find joy while taking a hike? Do that. Need a nap to feel refreshed? Do that. If it causes you delight, do it. If it doesn't or it feels like work, then don't do it. Clean the dishes the night before. Delay the laundry for one more day. Go grocery shopping during the week. If it feels like work, it will be counter productive. Sabbath is for renewal and being refreshed. Work and production have the opposite effect. Once you've decided how you will spend your time, stick to it.
Prepare for the Sabbath. Yes, it's takes intentional preparation. If there are tasks and chore that you'll be setting aside or doing early, let the others in your home know the plan. In fact, invite them on the same journey! Then do what needs to be done. Stay up an hour later the night before and prepare. For example, empty the dishwasher the night before and plan to either place dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher or use paper products for the day. The goal is that any work that needs to be done, for you to rest is already complete.
Enjoy and delight. This sounds easier in words, but it can take practicing Sabbath for a few weeks before the pressure and stress of the things you have set aside no longer worry you. Tomorrow will come on its own. Rarely, are there things that demand your attention that can't be planned or arranged on a different day. This Sabbath day is for you to delight in.
For the next 24 hours while we were in Israel, sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, the streets were empty. The shops were closed and restaurants were vacant. We had not choice but to embrace this day of remembrance and remember the Sabbath. We were better for it.
Give yourself time, practice Sabbath, and soak in the joy that comes from being unproductive.