The pace is picking up. As I write this at the end of March, we are already working on Holy Week and Easter – recruiting worship assistants, working on bulletins, and doing all of the general organizing for these uniquely different worship services. For those of us in the church office, it does not yet feel like Holy Week or Easter, but it also doesn’t quite feel like Lent either. The pace is picking up at home too, as my cancer treatment continues, as I am working on the plan for my garden, and as I make summer and vacation plans. We are moving out of winter into spring, which is always a busier season.
Finding balance in our lives is something we always need to work at, and reconsider. How can we do all that we need to do, and still have time for what we want to do. What do we need to keep doing, or add into our schedules, and what do we need to let go of?
The bottom line is that we need to have time to simply relax and do those things that bring us joy and renewal. This is just as important as doing the “musts” on our To Do lists. But all too often, the time for relaxation and renewal escapes us. Too long without these activities, and we become exhausted, and sometimes, cynical, snappish, cranky, or all three.
Isn’t it interesting that God included Sabbath time in the Ten Commandments? In Genesis, God creates the world in six days, and rests on the seventh day. When God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, He commands humans to take a day off out of seven for the purpose of rest, renewal, and to reconnect with God.
I think part of the purpose of a day of Sabbath was to help us make it a habit. Building a habit increases the likelihood that we will continue to do something regularly over the long haul. Did you know that it takes 18 months of doing something consistently for it to become a habit? BUT it only takes six weeks of not doing something to break a habit. If you want to reestablish a habit, you are back to the 18 month timeline of doing that one thing consistently before it once again becomes a habit.
What does Sabbath look like? My Mom grew up in a home where Sabbath was very strictly observed. They always went to church on Sunday. All homework had to be completed by Saturday night, or it would remain incomplete on Monday. On Saturday, my grandmother prepared a picnic style lunch and dinner for Sunday. When those meals rolled around on Sunday, all she had to do was put the food on the table. Dishes where rinsed, but not washed until Monday morning. They did not participate in any kind of sports, or watch TV, or listen to the radio. No games were played and no books were read, except the Bible. They did not shop or buy gas on Sunday either. The entire day was dedicated to reconnecting with God and reconnecting to family.
When I was a kid, my mother still had us observe the Sabbath, but in a more open way. Worship was still mandatory, but we could leave the house for church events, like youth events. We still did not do any homework on Sunday (had to be completed by Saturday), but we could watch TV, read books, and play board games. We could also cook dinner and wash the dishes. But overall, the day was meant for worship, down time, family time and rest.
Today, Sabbath looks very different for most families. Grocery stores are full of shoppers and our children and youth’s sports teams compete on Sunday’s, even in the morning – which makes attending regular worship a challenge.
But what would it take for each of us to carve out Sabbath time? Is it possible to create space for an entire day every week in which the only requirements are worship, rest, renewal, and family? What changes would you need to make? It may be a hard adjustment. It may take time to carve out space in your schedule for an entire day. Yet there are benefits to this work. First, your relationship with God will benefit. Second, you will most likely feel better physically and mentally as a result of the downtime. Third, your relationship with your family will benefit (once everyone gets beyond any objections to the weekly ritual, and begins to experience the time of renewal).
Give it a try. A great time to start is the season of Easter. The 8 weeks of Easter will give you an intentional time to begin to make space for Sabbath. And – if Sunday is absolutely impossible for anything other than worship, you can pick another day of the week for your errand free day of renewal. But I challenge you to try. If you can do this for 8 continuous weeks, you may find yourself surprised at how helpful it is to your mental and physical well being.
Pastor Susan Lynch