Imagine a day with no cooking, no dishes to wash, no laundry. A day where your to-do list is hidden from sight and productivity is forbidden. A bubblebath… maybe a cup of tea. A leisurely stroll with your family. Sounds heavenly, right? And hopelessly unrealistic? Now imagine that you had this day happened frequently. In fact, that this day was a norm in your life – that 15% of your days were this day. What would that feel like – for your outlook, your sanity?
Why hello Sabbath. Nice to meet you.
If anyone needs to be re-acquainted with the notion of “Sabbath rest,” it’s us moms who stay at home with young children. I mean really, can you think of a job that’s more 24-7 than a mother to preschoolers? But there are two problems (maybe more, but these are the big two I face): 1) few people take the idea of “resting on the Sabbath” seriously anymore, even among believing Christians, and 2) the job doesn’t stop on th seventh day. Heck, it doesn’t stop ever. Kids still need to be fed, clothed, changed, cleaned-up after, loved, played with, monitored, and disciplined. Why even bother thinking about a Sabbath in the midst of all that?
Lately it’s been occurring to me that the very”24-7 ness” of mothering young children is the reason that obeying God’s command to “rest on the seventh day” is more important than ever. Burnout is extremely like in our jobs as mothers to little ones, given the constant demands on our time and attention; without a discipline of regular rest, it’s basically inevitable.
Notice the word “discipline.” Prioritizing rest and refreshment is inconvenient, sometimes downright bothersome. You have to actually plan to stop working. You have to rope off the time and then protect the heck out of it. You have to say no to people (sometimes even your family).You have to die to your to-do list a little, pull away from the important, even godly things on it. It’s way easier to just skip the Day of Rest. Pretend that you don’t need it; act like rest is only for the fragile. Press through the fatigue and get it done. Grab a quick run before church, watch a movie Sunday night with your husband while you fold laundry at the same time and call it good.
Till recently, this was my M.O. Because on the weekends, since my husband’s home, I can get stuff done without simultaneously supervising the kids. I can grocery shop solo. I can grab an hour or two to catch up on my consulting work. I run errands so much more easily than during the week. You get the point. The weekend makes it possible for me to do it all (or at least the version of “all” that I’m currently trying to do).
It didn’t occur to me that the overload resulting from the continual productivity – from the dozen lists continually being shuffled around in my brain (and sometimes my fridge) – is tied to disregarding God’s command that I rest on the Sabbath. We don’t believe that God really meant it. “Day of Rest”? Really? You mean every single week?
A few thoughts that have been bumping around in my head lately on this topic:
1) When God is describing the Day of Atonement to the Jews, He says this: “It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves.” Deny yourself. Stopping working is a sacrifice. It’s hard to put the to-do list aside. It was hard for the Israelites in the days of Moses; it’s had for us now. It’s a denial of self. Weird that we have to work hard to stop working, but it’s true. If it weren’t hard, He wouldn’t have had to include resting on the Sabbath as one of the ten commandments.
2) There definitely are preparations we have to undertake to rest on the seventh day. But they’re worth it. In The Blessing of the Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogul cites a rabbi who compares the Sabbath’s “sense of timelessness to river rafting or being in the wilderness. Preparing for such a trip – finding the right maps, inspecting equipment, packing the car – is so much trouble you wonder if it’s worth the effort. You have to work so hard to prepare to stop. But once on the river, with no watches or other obligations, time can unfold and expand in a natural rhythm.” You can’t get into the natural rhythm – stop and enjoy life – till you’ve done the work to get away (literally, figuratively, or both) from the daily grind.
3) The consequences of not building rest into our weekly lives are severe. Without becoming emotionally and spiritually refreshed on a regular basis, our souls begin to shrivel and die. Man was not made to run on adrenaline and command performances alone. How badly we moms of young ones need to hear this message hit me through an honest, brave post I read this week by blogger Elizabeth Esther (a great mom and writer): Losing the Joy of Mothering. I can so see this happening to me… to any of us, really.
But I have not taken the commandment to rest on the seventh day at all seriously. I have not even tried. Upon reflection, that strikes me as a bit smug and presumptuous. It is God, after all, telling me to lay aside the grocery list and go take a bath during the kids’ rest time, one day a week. There may be lots of other times I need to “take up my cross” and sacrifice to follow Jesus, but Sunday afternoon – He’s telling me – is not one of them. Surely this is a message that I – that all of us! – should want to hear!
I like Kendra’s words in “How Can Sunday be Restful with Little Ones?” It won’t be a spa day, after all (and shouldn’t be legalistic), but rest can still happen at some level. It can be different from the normal grind, a day when the presses stop. It can be worth it. Starting small, then, I’m adopting a practice of no housework or laundry, no cooking, and no consulting work on Sundays. Week three, and so far loving it!