Sabbath

June 26, 2019 by Beth A. Richardson

I can remember a time when we rested on Sundays. Stores were closed. Mom didn’t clean the house or do laundry or yard work. I remember being allowed to play solitaire (with an actual deck of cards), but I wasn’t supposed to tell Grandma about it.

I don’t remember knowing why we did or didn’t do things on a Sunday. It was just a part of our culture, a part of what I was taught by my family. Sunday was an important day, a day different from other days.

Of course, part of what made Sunday different was Dad’s role as the preacher. He was down at the church before we even got up on a Sunday morning. We saw him at church in his preacher role. But after church, he was Dad again. We had a big Sunday dinner, and then Dad had a Sunday afternoon nap before heading back to church for evening services or youth group.

As I was preparing for this issue, I was astounded at how far away from this culture I’ve strayed. For the most part I don’t do a lot of resting; Sabbath is missing from my life. About the only thing I can still find is the ritual of the Sunday afternoon nap ... but even that sometimes gets pushed aside for something more strenuous.

The weekends are full of the activities and chores that don’t get done during the work week. After church on Sundays I’m often finishing the chores that didn’t get done on Saturday. My “rest” activities tend to be projects like doing laundry, organizing a closet, or pulling weeds in the garden. 

Even when I do get to my Sunday afternoon nap, my motivation is to rest up for the coming week. I’m struck by Abraham Heschel’s words, “The Sabbath as a day of rest is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.” I’m called—commanded, even—to honor the Sabbath, to rest, because on the seventh day God rested. 

So I approach this topic with quite a bit of humility, a giant confession, and a lot of things to learn about how I can weave this important action (non-action?) back into my life. Those whose jobs have them working on Sundays (like clergypersons!!) have to be especially creative about finding rest, carving out Sabbath times. But, I suspect, all of us have a lot to learn about how to find times of Sabbath in our frantic, 24/7 world. 

When I am honest, I realize that I have a deep longing for Sabbath. I wonder if you might, too. As you find your way, consider: What feels like rest for you? In what can your mind, body, and spirit engage that breathes fresh life into you? That brings joy? Taking a moment to explore these things may lead to a Sabbath practice.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by this topic, know that you are not alone. I’m right there with you. We’ll be trying to figure it out together. Talk with others in your family or faith community about your struggles. Clergy friends, dialogue with your support team about how you safeguard times for Sabbath in your lives. 

May you linger with family or friends over Sunday dinner, feel the presence of the Spirit in a walk in the park, or rest in God’s loving arms during a long Sunday nap.


Interested in more soul care resources for spiritual leaders? Subscribe to From the Center, a monthly email newsletter from The Upper Room curated specifically for clergy and church leadership.

Adapted from Alive Now, July/August 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Upper Room.


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