When asked what was the hardest thing about living in the States, my friend recently responded: “probably the way the Sabbath day is treated like any other day. I mean, if ‘do not kill’ is high up on the respected 10 Commandment list, ‘remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy must be way at the bottom‘”. Of all the things that she could have thought of, I certainly wasn’t thinking of this one. One of the things I liked about the States was precisely the ability to run out for milk or eggs on a Sunday when we spontaneously wanted to make pancakes, or say, print photos when I wanted to send them first thing on a Monday morning. Who doesn’t enjoy getting the home to a place where you can start a new week without a pile of dishes stacked to the roof or four new loads of laundry awaiting you on a Monday morning?
But my friend’s response to the question struck a deep chord in my weary body. Perhaps precisely because my job as a mother never. ever. stops. I have become anxious to hurry up and get everything clean on Sundays because Monday lurks around the corner and I’ll lose my babysitter and household help. My Sunday evenings are kind of a miserable race to tidy up.
I remember being reprimanded in Germany for washing my car on a Sunday: also, man kriegt hier in Deutschland eine Strafe dafür!! I recall hiding my college laundry when I wanted to wash it at a friend’s home in Germany on a Sunday. I hated this strong societal scorn and strict legalism through which this Sabbath idea was enforced. At the same time, businesses being closed and a whole country choosing to stop toiling (regardless of faith), forced us to enjoy a walk in the countryside, a drawn out Sunday lunch or a bike ride with friends. I never thought of it until our friend mentioned it, but we never ran errands on a Sunday in France growing up either, because everything was closed for business. Sure, we moaned about the impossible business hours, but as a consequence, the pace of life was also much slower and restful at the weekends.
For about five weeks now, I have been toying with this idea of a Sabbath and what it would take on a Saturday (and Monday!) for an extreme achiever personality like mine to allow our family, but first and foremost myself, a day of rest. It takes a butt-load of work on the Saturday, that’s what it takes! It means preparing baby’s food, doing laundry, mopping the floors, running errands, meal planning…so that these things can be set aside on Sunday. Now, in the same breath, and pardon my French, but I don’t want to get all Germanic about my Sundays. I really don’t feel like I am a complete heretic if I press “start” on my washing machine one Sunday. Heck, I don’t really mind hanging out the laundry in the glorious SUNday sun or whipping up a quiche for my family. Life with an infant simply can’t be brought to a grinding halt. Rather, I think the attitude of guarding a day for rest should be entirely in the heart. So, I have started to ask myself on a Sunday – is what I am doing today necessary? Or am I toiling to provide for myself, trying to get ahead, instead of basking in the rest available to me? Do I trust that God will provide the strength I need on Monday? Also, what does it look like to rest with other people on a Sunday? As a result of these simple questions and small changes, it has surprised me to discover that I have never before looked so forward to Sundays and that I have much more strength come Monday morning.
Image source: Mothering Matters
4 thoughts on “Remembering the Sabbath”
I have asked myself similar questions and have more than once proposed the idea to my husband- not of a full-on Sabbath, but rather a day where we commit to unplugging- no computer, no internet, no ipad, no smart phones, no SCREENS… We have yet to try it! But I think we need to. Keep us posted if you try implementing a Sabbath day in your household!
It really seems important in light of the fact that our kiddos are being brought up in this always connected, “always on” era (referring to my post here: https://thirdculturemama.com/?s=generation&x=0&y=0 ). I might have written the above entry in an ambiguous way, but I have tried to clear my Sundays for about five weeks now so far (not toying with the idea just conceptually, but actually trying to make it a reality) and it has been so wonderful, with a ton a prep work on Saturdays and catch up on Mondays, of course! Though he generally agrees with the concept and tries hard not to take his work with him into the weekend, the hubs is a little more relaxed about what Sundays should look like (not wanting the legalism attached to it as I felt in Germany) – but I think the day of rest is initially what I need, and it is, in turn, great for our family. So I have been doing it not as a household rule but starting with me. We have also played with ‘no screen’ days for the whole fam’ and have managed to do it once or twice but wow, it’s surprisingly hard to retreat from them!
Jews celebrate the Sabbath from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. I actually think my family follows more of this pace. We have Fondue Friday on Friday night just Lucas and I, the whole family sleeps in on Saturday, we often go for walks together late that same afternoon, and do Make Your Pizza Night together on Saturday evening. We usually just lounge around all day Saturday day and night. If the kids have a birthday party or something, I don’t rush around to make sure it happens but instead put rest and family time first with the idea that if we can manage it we will. But, if we cannot, that’s ok, too. On Sunday after church, I (just like you) do everything to prepare for the next week. I bring this up because maybe Saturday would work better for the structure of your life and is also the actual “traditional” Sabbath.
We’re not trying to recreate a traditional Sabbath at this point, just take small but intentional steps to live more in the present, more with family and friends – less in front of screens or the washing machine. So far, it has been a breath of fresh air. I am sure with four kids, it’s all the more important, yet takes even more planning to make it happen!