This is the first of my posts describing specific items that will become part of my “rule of life”–see July 15’s post for an introduction.
The spiritual practice that most caught my attention during the class, as both something I’m not currently doing (at least not very well) and something I’d really like to do, was a weekly observance of the Sabbath. I’m not just talking about going to church on Sunday–I already do that–or about not going into the office on weekends. Observing the Sabbath means choosing one day per week (it probably will be Sunday for me, but it doesn’t have to be for everyone) to rest in a deliberate manner.
I know; “rest in a deliberate manner” sounds like a contradiction in terms. But my point is that Sabbath rest is planned and zealously guarded. It’s not the same as crashing in front of the TV at the end of the day because you’re so tired from work. Sabbath rest will look very different for different people, but the common factors are that it happens every week (ideally on the same day every week, though I understand that this may not work for people with unpredictable work schedules), it lasts for an entire day (following the Jewish model, it could actually start on the previous evening), and it doesn’t get shoved to the side when life gets busy. An exceptionally busy person is in exceptionally great need of a Sabbath rest.
The idea of observing Sabbath comes from two biblical passages: the creation in Genesis 1-2, in which God works for six days and then rests on the seventh, and the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, in which God commands his people to keep the seventh day “holy” (i.e., set apart; special). This command is elaborated on elsewhere in the Jewish law and clarified (never abolished) in the Christian New Testament. Even people who don’t accept Scripture as authoritative in their lives often understand from experience that a weekly day of rest is physically and mentally restorative–and not merely a luxury, but a necessity to function at full capacity.
As I mentioned before, the actual observance of the Sabbath will look different for different people. This is the “Sabbath policy” (subject to revision) I plan to put into effect for myself beginning next Sunday:
- No checking email
- No job-related* work of any kind, including grading (This may motivate me to work more efficiently during the week!)
- Perform a short ceremony to mark the beginning and end of the Sabbath. This will usually be as simple as lighting a candle on Saturday evening and again on Sunday before I go to bed.
- Include other people in my Sabbath celebration whenever feasible. (Note: Solitude is a separate practice, which I’ll write about in a later post. I included this item because my tendency is to be a hermit on Sundays, but since I’m now treating Sunday as a little holiday, it makes sense to be with other people.)
- Increase the quality and (probably) quantity of the time I spend at church. (Important note: Some people have no need to do the second part of this and should probably spend less time at church–I’m talking about those people who get burned out serving in every ministry. But I’m not always mentally and spiritually “present” when I’m in church, and I tend to escape as soon as the service is over, so I’m challenging myself to enjoy my church–by that I primarily mean its people.)
I’m looking forward to implementing this first part of my rule of life. What about you? Let me know how you observe, or plan to start observing, a weekly Sabbath rest!
*For me, I think it’s okay to do work that has nothing to do with my career, like mowing my lawn or grocery shopping, although I’ll probably try to do those things on Saturday.