Sabbath Transforms Us

On a Saturday morning in March, I was enjoying my cup of coffee when my wife said the words no husband ever wants to hear, “The fridge isn’t working!” As the ice cubes melted, my anxiety solidified. Our freezer stocked with Costco products galore was on its way to becoming a slushy mess. How much food would go bad? How much money would we lose? How long would it take to get a repairman in to figure out what was wrong with the fridge?

When the fridge broke down, we were already overwhelmed with strained extended family dynamics and a traumatic loss in my daughter's school community. Yet, in the midst of all of this, we still had to go to work, take care of our toddler, clean up the house, make dinner, and clean out the cat’s litter box. Apparently, life doesn’t ask permission to become chaotic.

When I rely on myself during chaotic times, I tend to become irritable with everyone around me. I get annoyed at the smallest things. Like, if I don’t think my wife loaded the dishwasher correctly or if my kids are not going to bed on time. Instead of showing patience and grace, I become demanding and short-tempered. I’m not proud of these moments, but they do happen.

Sabbath helps us rely on God

But when I am able to rely on God in the midst of the chaos, I find the irritability doesn’t completely take over. Sure, I still worry, I cry, I may even have moments of feeling irritated, but then I practice sabbath. Sabbath rest provides space for all my emotions. I can share them with God and others in appropriate ways, rather than take them out on my family. As my wife and I have cultivated the habit of sabbath keeping in our lives, we have learned that it is key to maintaining grace filled relationships in the worst of times.

Sabbath is for prayer and play

The theme of sabbath goes back to the beginning of Creation. According to Genesis 1, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Nowadays, Christians have all kinds of views on how one should practice the sabbath, but according to the pastor and writer, Eugene Peterson, sabbath has two main ingredients: prayer and play. He writes, “At regular intervals, we all need to quit our work and contemplate his, quit talking to each other and listen to him. God knows we need this and has given us a means in sabbath—a day for praying and playing, simply enjoying what he is.” Sabbath without prayer is just a secular day off and sabbath without play is puritanical.

Sabbath allows for peace

In sabbath rest, we worship and enjoy God in the midst of chaos. You are probably familiar with Psalm 23. It is a potent poem of endless comfort. One of my favorite lines is found in verse 5, the psalmist writes, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” It’s an absurd statement. Who has dinner ready when they are surrounded by their enemies? God does. He knows that even when life is unbearable, we need to be taken care of. One of the reasons sabbath exists is that when life gets to be too much, we can remember God is still taking care of us.

Sabbath takes practice

Don’t wait for the hard times to practice sabbath, start today. When practiced consistently, sabbath integrates into a Christian’s muscle memory. Like the student learning scales on the piano, the first day might be cumbersome, but by day 117 the notes will play naturally. If we intentionally take time for sabbath in the good times, then we will naturally go to it in the hard times. Prayer and play will become our most effective tools in the heartaches of life.

A change of scenery

After our fridge broke and our patience was running low, we needed to practice sabbath away from our home. We took a day to drive up north. We stopped at a playground by the Golden Gate Bridge to play with our kids. Then, we grabbed dinner at a taco place and gave thanks for God’s provision in our lives. Sabbath didn’t erase the frustration we were feeling at home, but it helped us connect with one another and God so that we could return home and face our problems more faithfully.

Start Small

Sabbath might be a new practice to you, so start small. Find a few minutes at the beginning and end of your day to connect with God and remember who he has made you in Christ. As the Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God.” This may look as simple as saying a short prayer before you take your first drink of coffee in the morning or reciting Psalm 23 after you brush your teeth before bed. These small sabbath moments can become building blocks for extended periods of sabbath.

Learn to play again

What brought you joy as a child? Was it drawing, climbing trees, or playing soccer? How about swinging, playing board games, or learning an instrument? We didn’t have to force ourselves to play as children, but as adults, we often need to relearn the art of play. Reconnecting with my inner child often looks like banging out a new rhythm on my drums or playing at the beach. It’s different for everyone, but our childhood can give us clues as to what makes our playful spirit tick. And remember, sabbath without play is no sabbath at all.

Whether it’s a change of scenery, a small sabbath moment, or picking up an old game, each of these sabbath practices makes room in your life for the relationships that matter most to you. We can’t stop life from becoming chaotic at times, but we can keep returning to sabbath, so that we stay connected to God, ourselves, and others.

About the author — Rev. Travis Jamieson

Travis Jamieson pastors a church in the heart of Silicon Valley. He has been married to Annie for ten years, and together, they are raising two beautiful red-headed children. In his spare time, you’ll often find Travis surfing at a local beach or riding his Vespa around town taking in the beautiful scenery of the Bay Area.

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