Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sunday, Sunday.

I have a real problem "keeping the Sabbath". My Sundays never feel like what I imagine.

This topic has been reappearing in my life a lot lately, so I'm taking some time to consider its importance. Maybe your family does a really good job of keeping the Sabbath, or maybe you've never thought about it too much. Either way, I hope some of my thoughts and struggles here will help you find a way to honor the Lord and find the rest you need.

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." Exodus 20:8

I grew up in the church, as did my husband, so the idea of keeping the Sabbath is not a new one by any means. My husband's grandfather would even go so far as to not eat out, shop at any stores, or use any type of hired service on Sundays. Always considering others as important as himself, it was important that he enable others not to need to work on Sundays. This has always been interesting to me, as my idea of rest usually includes hiring out the work of fixing lunch or maybe dinner. Heaven forbid I plan ahead and crock-pot my way to rest. That's a story for another day.

Over the last year this has come up in conversation quite often and many of the people talking about taking a Sabbath have been pastors or pastor's wives. Most have shared about regularly taking all day Monday or Friday to enjoy family time, go on hikes, or do whatever was good for their family to have a break, spend time together, and enjoy a day without much obligation or formal work. This really intrigued me, but since my husband has a typical Monday through Friday, eight-to-five job, it would never work for us. Their reasoning is that Sunday is always at least half-full of work at church, so they might as well go all-out and expect to "work" that day. After all, it's no easy task to constantly be serving at church and fellowshipping with others afterwards, maybe even running or serving at a Sunday night service.

Our Sundays have looked vastly different depending on what church we were attending. When we were first married, my husband sometimes led worship, but that was really the only capacity our church seemed to need us. The young adults group met Sunday evenings, but it was a very casual time of teaching and prayer, and since we didn't have kids and many of our best friends went too, it was refreshing and easy to go.

At our next church, again Mark led worship, but he was a more integral part of it. I was on our women's ministry team and helped with different events and bible studies (which almost never required anything from me on Sundays at all). Our church didn't usually have any evening services, so once church was out on Sundays, it really was a day of rest for us. We also only had the two boys at that time, and they were pretty easy kiddos.

With only a short stint at the church between then and now, those are my only experiences with Sundays in church as an adult. Our church now is fairly small. We committed with our dear friends in the revitalization of an old church and have been tremendously blessed by our last three-plus years there. But I have really struggled to figure out how to fit in a day of real rest as a family.

I only recently quit working in the nursery, have been a faithful bible-study participant, and Mark leads worship at least every other week. We have service Sunday morning, and a prayer service on Sunday nights, however, we rarely make it to those now that we live a bit further away. Mark has men's group on Monday evenings, and during the school year our bible study meets on Friday mornings. Now this doesn't cramp our schedule or anything, but I'm struggling to find a day of the week where we can truly rest the way God has wired us. Mark is definitely more of an introvert, and with me homeschooling and being with the kids all day, some non-people time is something I genuinely need to do more often.

On top of all this, I will only briefly mention the life-zapping effect my daughter has had on me. Her physical and emotional neediness the first few years of her life were far more draining than all of life with both of my boys. I feel like I am still recovering from the last four years with her. Don't get me started on what it's like to drop her off in the nursery each week.

So how does a family who serves in church, but has a typical, secular work-schedule, and who has children who are homeschooled and participate in sports, take a day an entire day of rest together?

After reading/listening to Glynnis Whitwer's book Doing Busy Better and listening to her session at SheSpeaks this year, I was curious to see if I could really not work on Sunday and still find the joyful revival in my soul that often alludes me. Do I trust God enough to make my service on Sundays feel life-giving and not like a burden? Do I trust Him to help me get all my work done in six days, and only do what rejuvenates and is life-giving on Sunday? Will all of this really make a lasting difference in my life and the life of my family?

Realistically, this feels like a lot to expect. I mean, there are kids who need help, meals that need made, and some type of cleaning is pretty much always involved. Then I have to factor in the fact that going to church usually involves some sacrifice, either because of service-roles or because it's not always easy to show up with a room full of diverse people and hold conversation while you wait to hear the Word of God. Yes, many conversations are life-giving, but sometimes they feel more like work. And often, kids are interrupting, needing help, or just plain driving you crazy.

So what am I doing with all of this? Well, taking a Sabbath on any other day of the week simply doesn't work for us. So on Sunday, I am trying really hard to wake up with a different mindset. It's not a day to simply do nothing, and expect to not be needed. It's a day to accept God's calling on my life, to accept the role I am playing with a joyful heart. As one who struggles with needing to actively pursue something in order to feel joy, I am trying to simply enjoy the down-time and not sneak in "work" throughout the day.

At our Sunday Service, this looks like being willing to hold conversations with people who seem uninterested, or are new, trusting that participating in God's work will bring about blessing and life. In the afternoons, this means not constantly checking on posts on social media, or responding to emails, knowing that what others expect of me has no genuine bearing on my soul. It means not reading books to catch up with my work, and only reading what I know will leave me refreshed and encouraged. It means if we watch a movie, I am snuggling the kids (or my husband!) instead of half-paying attention and scrolling through Facebook, completely confident of the benefits of being fully present in these important relationships.

Overall, I am working on making our Sundays life-giving, where I can observe God's goodness, and forget my own expectations of what makes a "good day". Every day is a good day to praise Him, and I need to be able to praise Him and honor Him by taking up the rest He calls me to. We need lasting rejuvenation, not just finding fulfillment in temporary accomplishments, having our life in order, or feeling like our service is noticed. We need more than to feel like all our ducks are in a row, or that we are particularly special, or even that our future circumstances are planned out and perfect. We need our security, our worth, our reward, and our joy to come from trusting in God for eternal goodness, provision, and favor.

Taking a quality Sabbath is a wonderful way to move our minds into experiencing what we know we should feel. God can take care of everything, even when we take a day off. And I am already seeing how trusting Him with those few hours on Sunday really impacts the rest of my week. My work feels lighter and less dependent on my ability. My striving feels fun and doesn't change the value of my personhood. My goals seem to find a way to line up better with His plans for me and I am struggling less with trying to "figure out my life" when frustrating situations arise.

You might not be able to take a "real" Sabbath like you wish, but you can change your posture toward your selective day of rest, and I really hope you do. We all need to find better ways to rest in Him. Sometimes that comes from the heart first, and sometimes from our body. But either way, I know that taking steps to trust God more will bear everlasting fruit. No matter what area of your life you are trusting Him with, He is more than capable of taking your load and giving you peace and fulfillment instead.

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