Deep Sabbath

August 9, 2013 — 8 Comments

A few years ago when Jack was away, I decided take a private Sabbath day. My normal Sundays are usually relaxing enough, but I discovered that’s not the same as spending a whole day alone to rest and enjoy God. A Rich Mullins song came to mind, Alrightokuhhuhamen, which talks about God stepping back after creating the world.

Well the Lord said ‘let there be’ and there was
On the earth below and in the sky above
Well then He knocked off work ’cause it was Friday night
Come Saturday morning everything was just alright
Sure enough

To take a whole day off we have to have confidence that life is alright, that things are good, that the world is not going to fall apart if we don’t clean the house, answer the phone, respond to a text message, or check Facebook. It’s an affirmation that ultimately the universe does not depend on us.

I found it helpful to follow a set of principles that Jewish artists came up with to encourage people to reclaim the Sabbath**:

1. Avoid technology
2. Connect with loved ones
3. Nurture your health
4. Get outside
5. Avoid commerce
6. Light candles
7. Drink wine
8. Eat bread
9. Find silence
10. Give back

lili farewell 022

Avoiding technology meant I didn’t check email or use the internet to read news and blogs. Being off the grid while at home changed the tone of the day. I discovered how it had become a reflexive, thoughtless habit to click the ‘get mail’ button, or to look up a simple fact and emerge from the internet swamp two hours later.

But I wasn’t legalistic about computer use. I used the internet to webcam with family and to talk with Jack via Skype [see #2]. And what is more refreshing than watching the world through a two or three-year old’s eyes?

I exercised [#3] but later than usual, so it felt like I was on vacation. Getting outside [#4] meant reading on the terrace with a view of our beautiful little green garden. It was too hot to light candles [#6]. But I had a glass of cool rosé [#7] and made some special food. I usually don’t enjoy food preparation but since I wasn’t rushed, I was able to have a more sacramental attitude towards the task. It also helped to listen to worship music as I chopped vegetables to roast in the oven [yum!].

another example of a refreshing meal

another example of a refreshing meal

The artists’ Sabbath manifesto didn’t mention any spiritual activities. But I once heard a sermon which pointed out that the Sabbath is not just a time for having fun, but a time for refreshment and renewal by reflecting on God’s love and mercy and grace. So in the afternoon, I spent some leisurely time doing that.

It wasn’t an earthshaking day. It was quiet, peaceful, relaxed. I took a bath. I read. I contemplated. By the time I went to bed, I did feel very refreshed. The next day, I had more mental energy to attack some unpleasant tasks.

However because “remember the Sabbath day and keep it set apart” is one of the Ten Commandments, I can slip into thinking I’m doing God a favor by doing it. It seems like a big sacrifice to give up productive time and sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary did. I can feel I’m wasting valuable time that could be spent doing something else.

Sometimes I view it as an item for me to check off my master list. I turn Sabbath-keeping into a task that I have to work at, instead of seeing it as a gift that God gives to me.

Or I swing the other way and chafe against obeying the command, becoming hypersensitive to anything that smacks of legalism. But over and over I’ve seen that unless I am strict about keeping the Sabbath, it gets pushed aside. As I have gotten to know people from Sabbath-keeping traditions, I’ve come to appreciate the boundaries they put on the day. A little rigidity comes in handy to create walls on this holy day. Certain activities are kept in and other activities shut out.

My Sabbath walls are in need of some repair these days. I need to regain the discipline of disconnecting from technology, connecting with people, and enjoying God’s creation. And then spend some time praising the God who says, “Relax, take a day off. Sleep in the boat while the storm rages. I have everything under control.”

What about you? How do you practice keeping the Sabbath?

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; He rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; He set it apart as a holy day.
Exodus 20:8-11

Sabbath Manifesto

[edited from the archives]

8 responses to Deep Sabbath


    Thanks again Annie for a timely reminder. I am just beginning a new season of life and planning in intentionally my Sabbath days. It helps me to do that as I look at new quarters in my life. The Holy Spirit affirmed this through your comments today as I took today as a Sabbath as well! Going to the outdoor market and walking through the food stands, full with veggies and fruit local to our area, enjoying a good nap, reading and journaling and enjoying a fabulous chocolate chip cookie! It always helps me to stop and like you said at the end of the day I feel refreshed, renewed and ready to give Jesus to others and not just my little insights!:) I have discovered that sometimes the night before a Sabbath I’ll start feeling well- I don’t need it, things haven’t been too busy or stressful- but it is not about that- it is about choosing the love God by spending quality time with Him!:)

    Love you and am so encouraged always as you continue to mentor me through your insights and teaching,
    Liz Chan


      Sounds like a wonderful Sabbath! I really like your point about how it’s easy to slip away from keeping the Sabbath when we don’t feel really desperate enough [like maybe we don’t think we deserve it?]. That encourages me to view the Sabbath as part of my week, like having three meals a day, and going to church on Sunday, rather than as something extra-special.


    I was doing well during the school year. i would take a half-day once a week…sleep in, drink coffee, spend time with God, often fast, lots of prayer till the kids came home around 3. But I haven’t done it even once since school let out for the summer, I’m sad to say. I miss those days. I need them. But yes, it is really really hard to set aside that time. Weeks into trying this, it began to get a little easier to keep those boundaries up.


      Ahh, family life: definitely more of a challenge to keep the Sabbath when kids are home from school. I too find it hard to maintain spiritual disciplines when I transition into another season of life [whether literally from spring to summer, or metaphorically from one phase to another]. I think that’s one of the benefits of being part of a Sabbath-keeping community/tradition–when everyone in your community is doing it, it’s easier. Hope you’re able to get back in the groove next month!


    cool. this has inspired me to come up with my own principles.


    I love this! …and really needed to hear it. Thanks for the way you bless us with your encouraging writing.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Still practicing « Annie Wald - November 14, 2013

    […] on is the Sabbath. As I read her description of Jewish Sabbath practices, I realized that the Deep SabbathI wrote about a few months ago is actually the regular Sabbath. Oops. It’s not a once-a-year […]

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