Practicing Rest

Prioritizing and enjoying an extended time of rest is greatly beneficial. Dellan and I decided to be more proactive about resting about a year and a half ago. It is an act of love for the soul and an act of resistance against a culture of hurrying and doing.

It is also an act of obedience to God as well as an act of worship.

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.

Exodus 20:9-10a (ESV)

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Hebrews 4:9-10 (ESV)

When we started this practice, we were so looking forward to slowing down and getting quality time together. Once the rest day came around, though, we wondered what to do with our time. What did rest actually look like?

In the New Testament, naysayers accuse Jesus of not keeping the day holy because He heals, teaches, and picks grain on the Sabbath. He quickly assures listeners that it is acceptable to do good on the Sabbath.

Like most teachings in the New Testament, Jesus is speaking to a heart issue rather than about specifics and rules.

The people accusing him very well could have taken the day as a break from all types if work. In that sense, they faithfully kept the Sabbath as a day off.

But were their hearts set on enjoying God? Were they resting out of love for Him and gratitude for the abundance of His grace in their lives? Or was this just another box to check in the name of religion?

Jesus knew that He was resting by communing with the Father, enjoying the day, and doing good.

If we’re paying attention, we will be able to tell when we’re veering from true rest. We aren’t given a list of do’s and don’ts because God is concerned about our heart posture while resting.

For us, this has been and will be an ongoing experiment.

On one of our first Sabbaths, I thought it might be fun to do yard work together. Getting out in the fresh air, doing something side-by-side, talking together… it sounded great.

It was not. For us, yard work was just work.

I was sweaty and tired and did not feel rested. So, we decided that yard work wasn’t a Sabbath activity for us.

It very well could be restful for some people. If gardening and cleaning up your lawn is life-giving for you, then go for it. The point is, you will know whether or not you are in a state of rest and worship.

In our family, we try to kick off our day of rest with dinner together. Before dinner begins, we declare that we are heading into our day of rest, and Dellan shares some encouragement. We then light a candle to signify the beginning of Sabbath. We are in the process of developing a more concrete tradition for Sabbath, and we are modeling after Jefferson Bethke’s approach.

If all goes according to plan (which it rarely does) we would then spend a whole day reading, watching movies, doing crosswords, going for walks, playing board games, and probably going on one outing to a farmer’s market or brewery.

The reality is that we still have to care for our baby and dog and somewhat our home. This is part of what Jesus meant by doing good on the Sabbath—we have to keep taking care of our family. My personal struggle is with taking those tasks too far and beginning to veer into work. For example, after dinner I’ll clear the plates so that the table is open for games or whatever else. Once the plates are in the sink, I’m tempted to rinse them all off, load the dishwasher, then I might as well wipe off the counters, and oh look at that, the microwave is dirty. And suddenly, I’m working on my rest day. When this happens, I just stop and say something to myself like, “There’s no reason this can’t wait until tomorrow.” It has to be a hard stop or else I will just keep going.

For others, it could be checking your work email or even just letting your mind wander to whatever project or problem you have going on. Every person will have to consciously choose rest and get back on track when necessary.

This is always an opportunity to bring my mind back to God. The Sabbath is meant to remind me that He is ultimately keeping all things in motion. My life is not dependent on my constant working because He is my sustainer. I can stop for a whole day because He never does. These thoughts always lead naturally to worship.

We are still figuring out how to Sabbath best, and it has been a fun journey so far. I hope that reading about our experience has encouraged you to consider taking a day of rest.

It is a good gift from God and a worthy pursuit. I believe it changes family culture in some really sweet ways.

Let me know in the comments if your family takes a day of rest! I’d love to hear what you like to do together.

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