The Life Giving Practice of Family Sabbath, and 4 Ways We Make it Work

A little over a year ago, we recommitted ourselves to practicing Sabbath–a day with nowhere we have to go and nothing we have to do, where we remember that we are not God and we are not defined by our work.

I am someone who needs this reminder so badly.  At dinner a few months ago, I was talking to a friend about life-stuff, when it dawned on me how much of my ‘life’ was work.  I noted this aloud to her, “I spend a lot of energy on my job,” and she seemed a little surprised that I was just now noticing.

Is took us a while to tap into the renewing potential of Family Sabbath, but eventually we did. Back before Petyon was born, Curtis and I would take Riley to daycare on Friday morning, then head to a French bakery for coffee and pastries or two the Mexican restaurant for brunch.  We’d pick him up at 12:30, then spend the afternoon at home.  Naptime at 2 was for everyone.

When Peyton arrived, we had to rework our schedule, and shifted to Mondays.  I know what you’re thinking–Sabbath with a newborn and 2 1/2 year old sounds awesome. Sign. me. up.  But we stuck with it, and through trial and error, we now relish this practice.

Last night as I did what has now become a Sunday routine, I realized there were some markers of our Sabbath practice that make it strong.

  • Prepare the night before.  On Sunday, all the dishes get done.  We start some laundry. The house gets a once over to put things back in their place.  The idea is to prepare our home for rest before we go to sleep, so that we wake up with nothing to do.
  • Figure out what you want to do. We experimented to find our best structure.  We have a slow morning, and maybe make pancakes. (PSA: make your own full-fat buttermilk and keep it in your fridge at all times. You’re welcome.) We leave the house about 9:30 to do something fun, hopefully outdoors, usually driven by Riley’s interests.  We eat lunch (usually pre-packed) and head home for naptime.  We spend the evenings in and order take out.
  • Figure out what you don’t want to do. If it’s a Sabbath, I don’t want to do dishes.  I don’t want to see dishes. I don’t want to just leave the dishes for Tuesday.  No dishes. So we order take out on Mondays.  Identify your dishes, then don’t do them on Sabbath.
  • No work. Really. We had to consciously commit to neither checking nor replying to emails on Mondays, because some of our colleagues do work, and because it is tempting to sneak in that quick reply or just stay attuned to that thread. But just because we weren’t sitting down at a computer doesn’t mean we were resting from our work, and a diligent habit related to our phones was a must.

One of the best rewards of our nearly year-long quest for a Sabbath rhythm is watching our son Riley learn to love it too.  He knows Monday as Family Day, and he looks forward to it.  He is aware of its fun and freedom, and it is his favorite day of the week.

I love how Ben Patterson, who was my campus pastor in college, talks about Sabbath.  He was a champion for rebellious rest when I was a student, and so inclined to follow the college pattern of crazy busy.

“The Sabbath is therefore a freedom day; keeping it is an act of defiance and rebellion in a world enslaved to work.  It is a weekly rebuttal of the worldly dogma that we justify our existence and sustain ourselves by achievement.” –Ben Patterson

Cheers to freedom, friends!

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