I am not an expert at taking sabbath. In fact, I kind of suck at it.
Last week I talked about why you need rest, and explained that my most productive days are the days right after rest.
It’s important, and good for you, and I’m bad at it.
So, if you want advice on how to take a sabbath from someone who has dutifully observed the Lord’s day for many years, I’m not your guy.
But, if you want advice from an exhausted workaholic on how to squeeze a day of rest into your already too-busy schedule… well then, I might be able to help.
Sabbath is a religious term, and can carry different meanings for different people. It comes from Hebrew meaning “to rest.” In the New Testament, early Christians modified the Jewish practice and began calling it “the Lord’s day.”
Either way the point was the same, a day set aside to consider God’s work.
The idea of a day of rest comes from the creation account. On the seventh day, God rested. He enjoyed creation, he looked upon all he created and called it good.
For me, things changed when I realized sabbath is more than a day off. It’s not just about kicking back and relaxing after a long week. Your sabbath is a weekly reminder that the world doesn’t stop spinning if you do. Sabbath is not “doing nothing.” It is remembering you can’t do everything.Sabbath is not “doing nothing.” It is remembering you can’t do everything.Click To Tweet
It is humbling. We get caught in our delusions of productivity. We confuse “we are so busy” with “we are so important.” Henry David Thoreau writes, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
When I stopped treating the sabbath like a timeout and started treating it as an essential part of a productive week, I discovered I am more productive on weeks when I take a day of rest.
It’s one of the weird things about the economy of Christ, the less time you take to do things, the more time you have to get them done.
I will often cheat myself out of my rest days. I’ll convince myself I need to work, because otherwise I’ll never get through my to-do list. The reality is I get much more done when I take time off. I’m refreshed and ready when I come back from a sabbath day. It’s probably why some companies see a boost in productivity when they adopt a 4-day work week. Taking a day to rest results in better work.
The very first step in taking a sabbath is to recognize it’s importance. A day of rest is essential to a productive work week. If you want to be more productive, you need to take a day off. It’s how we were designed.
What To Do On Your Sabbath
Focus on God
Part of what helped me realize that taking a sabbath wasn’t just “slacking off” was understanding what the day was for. Sabbath is about making space in your schedule for focusing on God. In the same way my Tuesday afternoons are set aside for meetings, the sabbath is set aside for contemplating how God is at work.
Focusing on God doesn’t have to mean spending eight hours meditating in a room. Unless that’s your thing… you do you. But I’d go nuts.
It can mean praying and reading your Bible. But it can also mean getting together with a friend to update them on life, or writing thank you notes to people who encourage you. You can journal, or look at pictures, or go for a walk.
Speaking of going for a walk…
The first sabbath was the exclamation point on creation! The world was created for us to enjoy. I often forget that, so I’ve made it a point to try and enjoy creation every sabbath. Sometimes it’s just a walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes it’s a full-day hiking excursion to a state park. Get outside, it’s good for mind, body, and soul.
You Have Permission to “Not”
On my sabbath I have permission to “not.” I can read that book I want to get to, or not. I can do some errands, or not. I can organize the junk drawer, or not, cause every house needs at least one junk drawer.
The thing is, I often get a lot done on my sabbath because I want to. It’s not a sabbath just because I’m stressed out by home things instead of work things. I need permission to not to any of those things.
Don’t “Work” Work
Really my only rule for sabbath days is I won’t do work work. That’s tricky for me because being a pastor is more of a lifestyle than a vocation. But it’s important that I take time each week to remember it’s God working through me, and he has plenty of other people he can work through too.
“Work” work is the stuff I do every day, my job. It’s different than simply “work,” which is doing something productive. If I choose to take the day and paint a room in my house, that’s work, but not work work. We need time away from our work work to let our brains regroup. I almost always come back from a day of rest with a new perspective on whatever challenges I’m facing at my job.
3 Steps For Adding Sabbath To Your Schedule
“How” should always follow “Why.”
Once I realized why sabbath is crucial to a productive week it became much more important I figure out how to take one. Understanding why it was important helped it climb my list of priorities.
We make time for what we value. The first step of including a sabbath is recognizing it’s value. After that, there are three things I’ve found increase my chances of taking a sabbath.
1) Schedule it
I’ve started to calendar around my day of rest. If I just used what’s leftover each week in my schedule I’d end up with lunch on Tuesdays and a bit of Saturday afternoon. Put in on your calendar and force other work to get done around it.
2) Plan it
It’s easier to schedule something when you have a clear idea of what it will be. If you find yourself cheating away your rest days, start planning what you’ll do that day. Having a concrete plan helps you visualize the day and makes you less likely to fudge what you do that day. Just remember, when your rest day comes, you have permission to “not.” (see above)
3) Don’t Sweat It
A rest day isn’t very restful if you spend it wondering if you’re resting right. The sabbath was made for you. It’s not something else to feel like a failure at. Jesus said it like this, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”
From one “I suck at sabbaths” person to another, you need to take a day of rest. The sabbath was made for you. It fills a need for you. There’s only upside. The worst thing that happens is you don’t take one, and end up working the whole time and you’re stressed out and feel like you can’t get anything right.
But hey, you’re doing that already. So what have you got to lose?