A year ago I was worn down, burned out. I was working WAY too much in a very stressful environment. My priorities had gotten jumbled and I found I had placed my job first and it was getting the best of me. If you’ve ever heard the song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, that was my theme song.
I had coffee one morning with my pastor and as we talked about this place I was in, he suggested I try observing Sabbath. I thought that was such a strange suggestion to help with my problem of being overworked and over stressed. I couldn’t imagine how I’d be able to take off a day in my week. Too much to do!
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. ~Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV)
It was almost the start of Lent, so I agreed to try Sabbath as my Lenten discipline. I decided Sabbath would mean taking a rest from the activities which caused me the most stress and to focus on being grateful for the gifts God has given me. Rest and delight in the Lord. That meant for one day a week: no work, no laundry and a focus on spending quality time with my kids.
Work was the easy one to identify as a prime stressor and time drain. After all, that seemed like my main issue. Laundry was a bit of a surprise. I realized I spent most of my Sundays doing laundry. Piles and piles of laundry, all day long. I would get stressed when the kids wanted to play because I needed to get the week’s laundry done.
So, I refocused my work, even working longer some weeknights so that I wouldn’t have to work on Sunday. Then, I changed my approach to laundry. Instead of doing the week’s laundry all on one day, I started running a load each weeknight so I would have it all done before Sunday.
The first Sunday I spent the day hiking with the kids. It was glorious! I wasn’t thinking about all the work or chores I should be doing, because I had all that done. I was able to just enjoy being with the kids.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. ~Isaiah 58:13-14 (NIV)
Over the course of that Lenten season, I began to reshape my priorities. To put boundaries around my work. To not let chores consume my limited free time. And, most importantly, to spend quality time with the ones I love.
I haven’t been as focused at keeping Sabbath since then, but I have continued to manage my priorities; limiting the amount of work I do in my off hours, spreading out my chores and laundry through the week so it’s not a consuming exercise on the weekends, and making sure I spend focused time each week with my kids. My Sabbath experience helped create more balance in my life, by defining what’s truly important to me and prioritizing those things.
I still occasionally do laundry on Sundays, but only if it’s critical. I’ve learned to be OK with leaving laundry buckets queued up for washing later in the week, as long as everyone has enough clean clothes for another day or two. Even better, my kids now like to help where they can!
Today, Sabbath means things like my work computer stays in its bag when I’m at home. It means some nights, instead of working on a particular project, I’ll take a long bath, which is my favorite way to relax and spend time with God. Or, today when I really wanted to spend time writing, I chose instead to ride bikes and play baseball with Ryan. Through Sabbath, I’m learning to let go, allow myself to rest and live into the rhythm of life.
“A Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God…Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest.” —Hebrews 4:9,11 (NRSV)