In Peter Scazzero’s excellent book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality he tells a story that responds to the most frequently asked question on the Sabbath: “How do I honor the Sabbath if I don’t have time?”
“A wagon train of Christians traveling from St. Louis to Oregon observed the habit of stopping for the Sabbath during the autumn, but as winter approached, the group began to panic in fear they would not reach their destination before the snows started. Many group members proposed they quit the practice of stopping for the Sabbath and travel seven days a week. This caused an argument in the community until they decided to divide the wagon train into two groups. One group would observe the Sabbath day as before and not travel. The other would press on.
Which group arrived in Oregon first? Of course—the ones who kept the Sabbath. Both the people and their horses were so rested by their Sabbath observance they could travel much more efficiently the other six days.”
So what do you do when you don’t have time? You trust God and obey his command. I struggle with this, even though I know God is creator and multiplier and lover of my soul. The Sabbath is a gift from God to me, but he knows me well enough that he knew he’d have to make it a command. If only I’d obey.
What do I do if I’m overwhelmed with the idea of taking a whole day off?
You’ve got the same two options as if you were deciding how you’d get into the water to swim: cannonball in or inch-by-inch. I recommend the cannonball, but sometimes that’s too much shock to the system.
In that case, start with four hours. Do that for 2-3 weeks, then try six or eight hours, and build up from there. Plus, if you begin your Sabbath at sunset, you can include all those hours you’re asleep. (A great way to gain some momentum!)
What if I don’t know what to do with my time? Remember, it’s your gift from God, so it’s your time. You can’t get it wrong. But if you want to make the most of your time, be strategic. It’s always wise to “loosely plan” your Sabbath.
Include times to REST and REMEMBER. Rest from stress, so put away your phone and don’t watch or listen to the news. Do things that bring refreshment to your body and soul—read, take a walk, take a nap, spend time with a friend or some family (not the ones who stress you out).
And take time to remember God’s goodness: journal, tell stories, draw, create a photo collage of meaningful spiritual moments in your life, make a list of answered prayers. Pray!
But what if I REALLY DON’T HAVE TIME? If you are a stay-at-home parent, a working parent with young kids, or, especially, a single parent, you need to get creative. If you’re married, work out a tag-team situation. Identify two two-to-four hour time slots where someone is off and can Sabbath. Perhaps one parent Sabbaths on the night shift (sunset until the kids get up in the morning), and the other can enjoy the morning shift (from bed time until noon or earlier).
Whether married or a single parent, team up with other family members or friends. Drop the kids off for a night or a four-hour block of time to allow you to enjoy time to REST and REMEMBER.
What if my boss is insane and requires me to be on-call seven days a week? If you’re a healthcare worker, police officer, or firefighter, you still get a day off. But if you’re always on-call, then you have to be flexible. However, if you commit to Sabbath, I bet you’ll begin to notice you’re not called nearly as often on that day.
Nancy Beach shares an outstanding message on God’s gift of the Sabbath at the Next Step Summit. Sign up for the free REPLAY during the 40 Days of Lent.
If you’re a lawyer, in the business world, or have another job that expects an excessive number of hours on the job, you have to decide what your long-term goals are. If they include having a healthy soul, family, and relationships, you might need to consider a different industry. Or, perhaps, another boss. I know plenty of successful, healthy lawyers and business leaders. And Chick-fil-A has proven that it’s possible to be successful, even when taking one of the busiest days off in the fast-food industry.
I know I’m only scratching the surface. What other questions do you have? Put them in the comments below, and we can keep talking.
Meanwhile, give yourself some grace. You may be in a season of life where it feels next to impossible. Get creative, do what you can, and dismiss any waves of guilt. Remember what Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”
What’s your next step? Are you going to cannonball into the water, or will you splash a little water on yourself as you go in inch-by-inch?
Read the first Sabbath article here.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
What are your thoughts and questions?