3 Reasons We Avoid Sabbath (and What to Do about It!)

Photo credit: Patrick Feller, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo credit: Patrick Feller, Flickr Creative Commons

Within the first week of the launch of our “Stealing Back Sabbath” series, Fred renamed it.

It became known as “Stealing Black Sabbath” in our household, conjuring up images of a mumbling Ozzy Osbourne, far from his glory days of bat biting.

But Fred edit revealed something deeper: we all manage to distort sabbath.

Whether it’s busy schedules, children’s soccer, the inconvenience of rest, or the pressure to go–an intentional day of reflection morphs into any old packed day. There’s no distinction between Sunday and Tuesday.

But why have we gone from sacred sabbath-keeping to getting so off track?

I wanted to find out.

As sabbath became a more frequent subject at our dinner table, I set out to ask the women I know for their take on things.

The result: courageous posts on sabbath quandaries, challenges, and joys.

Through their words, I learned the magnitude of our sabbath avoidance, and its causes:

1. We lack discipline.

Discipline can be such an ugly word. I live with a self-controlled person who used to be a monk, which means that I’ve had to face the uneasy facts that I am not as regulated as I’d like to be. In Kate Rademacher’s post, we learned about the dangers of losing a sabbath-keeping discipline—which include turning off recent converts and prospects to Christianity.

If folks visit our houses of worship on Sunday and see that we’re too busy rushing the kids to the car for lunch out or shoe shopping, we’ve missed a sacred opportunity. We’ve missed community.

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light! –Edna St. Vincent Millay, “First Fig”

2. We don’t see sabbath as an opportunity.

Kristen Vincent shared her recent frightening episode with a concussion. It took a whack on the head (literally), to wake her up to the fact that sabbath is not a sentence to be endured. She realized what all she’d missed while being hunched over her laptop or worried about what’s coming next. Her concussion jolted her into seeing sabbath as an opportunity to engage in something that wasn’t on her to-do list.

As Sylvia Boorstein has taught and written: “Don’t just do something. Sit there.”

3. We don’t see sabbath as necessary for our relationship with God.

In explaining her perspective as clergywoman, the Rev. Jennifer Hege urged us to see sabbath as essential to our relationship with the Divine. Sabbath falls at the beginning of the Biblical narrative, which seems to be a literary urging of “this is important!” Similar to our human relationships, we cannot grow a bond if we don’t spend time cultivating it.

If our lack of discipline and our perspective keeps us from seeing sabbath as essential, how do we fix that?

Baby Steps: Unplug and Restore

Last Lent, Fred and I embarked on a interfaith Sabbath discipline of unplugging on Sundays. We’re both tech-oriented, and every waking moment is usually spent pointing our faces toward a screen. We move from the laptop to the iPad to the phone, in an endless cycle of feeding ourselves with hashtags and updates we don’t need. The solution: pull the plug, one hour at a time.

By removing the cause of distraction–even for one hour–we were able to focus on the true meaning of sabbath: connection. We went outside more. We found ourselves absorbed in worship at Binkley Baptist Church and the Hindu community of Saragrahi. We prayed and recited scripture.

True rest does not mean inactivity. It means putting an end to the restlessness that often characterizes the way we live. –Dr. Norman Wirzba, “A Sabbath Way to Lead”

Take Heart

Sabbath is not just for those who adhere to a faith. Whether you are a church-goer or not, you have to have down time.

Here’s why:

Heart disease is the number one killer of women—more than any forms of cancer.

A few Saturdays ago, I took a CPR certification course with the American Red Cross. We learned heart compressions and rescue breathing, along with AED training, and how to recognize a heart attack.

Women and men experience different symptoms during heart episodes, and I was shocked to hear that women’s heart attack warnings resemble heart burn. That gooey spaghetti you ate for lunch could lead you into ignoring the most important warning of your life.  Stress can contribute to heart problems. So, while it may seem an extreme jump, sabbath-keeping could save our lives. It reduces our stress and helps us renew our energy.

We’re in This Together!

Thanks to Kate, Kristen, and Jennifer, we’ve pulled the mask off of sabbath avoidances. We’ve ferreted out the root of the problem, acknowledging the real time challenges of 21st century rest as compared with our grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

It’s up to us to take the steps to abolish sabbath procrastination. Start small, but start somewhere–and know that you are not alone. When you’re discouraged, re-read these wise words from these women, talk with God, rest, sit there, and do nothing.

Your Turn:

What are your biggest obstacles to sabbath-keeping? How have you found ways to squeeze quiet, rest, and spirituality into your life? Share your tips in the comments section below.

2 thoughts on “3 Reasons We Avoid Sabbath (and What to Do about It!)”

  • I loved living in Israel when absolutely everything shut down at sunset on Friday and went back to the usual on Saturday and sundown. Forced Sabbath was something difficult to get used to at first, but how I long for it in my life again.

    • Thanks for commenting, Pamela!

      I love the idea of “forced sabbath.” Even for those who are not religious, a halt in the community activity/business encourages folks to slow down and take rest.

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