Sabbath Hearts


Back when I was in high school my Dad became convicted that we should be honoring the Lord’s Day more than we had been. Having grown out of a Jesus people kind of church that met in the parks sometimes, we were growing into Christian traditions that were much older and unfamiliar, and often seemed painfully stuffy.

It was true that Scripture clearly said the Sabbath was for rest. Of course we all had visions of Little House on the Prairie and very serious times past. It seemed to us that the only people who would be Sabbatarian were people who would wear horsehair shirts, scowl at children, administer discipline for laughter (as well as most other things), eat only boiled food, have no fun, and probably cause routine church splits about whether the bulletins should be tri-folded to reflect the Trinity or not.

In the midst of some angsty discussions around the dinner table Dad pointed out something that has stuck with me all this time “But what about homework, Dad? Are you saying that I’m not allowed to do homework on Sunday??!” He responded that it wasn’t that we didn’t get to work, it was that we got to not. It was hard to ignore this. I am not normally chafing at the bit to do homework, yet tell me that I may not and my desperation to do it becomes unbearable.

But at the end of the day we all just found it hard to argue with one of the Ten Commandments. It it is abundantly clear that the Sabbath day is a whole day to be kept holy, and a whole day to rest. We began implementing some guidelines, which we mostly still follow, that were simple rules of thumb. If it is your normal work, don’t do it on the Lord’s Day. We begin our Sabbath at 6:00 on Saturday and celebrate it through 6:00 on Sunday. So Saturday is a crazy day at the end of usually crazy weeks, and often times when we all roll into Sabbath dinner, we do it in a manner that we call “Crashing into Sabbath.”

Preparing and cleaning up Sabbath are part of the celebration of the day, not the normal work of life. And so we are willing to spend a big chunk of our Saturdays getting ready for Sabbath. Making food, getting our house ready if we are doing it here, getting children showered in the afternoon, making sure enough laundry is done for everyone to wear clothes in the morning.

Sabbath dinners have, by God’s grace,  grown into us. My parents began doing these dinners back when Ben and Bekah were newlyweds, and truthfully things began picking up speed pretty quick after that. At the beginning it was an effort to still see each other regularly even though our adult lives were starting to spread us out. And now it  has grown into something that is as much a part of us as it could be. We order our lives around it. If we go out of town, we hope to make it back in time. My kids think of it as the beginning of worship, as the best part of the week, as a destination, as a bookmark, as the ultimate comfort food,  and as who we are.

But something else happened to me along the way. It was one thing to lay down your schoolwork on the Lord’s Day – but come now. I am a mother of six children. They don’t stop. There are dishes and laundry and floors to sweep and toys to sort and all kinds of things that always need to be done. I found myself saying things to myself about not being able to stop, because it doesn’t work that way anymore. I still considered the Sabbath a day of rest, but I had slowly let it be a day of rest plus. Rest plus talking about how I couldn’t stop. Rest plus maybe a tiny bit of resentment that there doesn’t seem to be such a thing for me anymore. Rest plus unrest. Clearly this was not right.

At some point, chatting to my husband about this, he pointed out that obedience comes first. He told me just to start by laying it all down, by not thinking about it, by letting it go, and see what God does with that. And you know what I discovered? I discovered that what I didn’t see was what kind of rest I really needed. Obedience without excuses has a wonderful way of giving you better perspective.

To be clear, we still aren’t people who blow an air horn if we see someone loading a dishwasher on the Sabbath. Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. But something that I have grown to see is that God was offering me something that was so much better than what I was hoping for. I visualized some kind of pure retreat somewhere where everything is clean and you forget that you ever have worked. What God has given me is totally different but so much more refreshing. Honoring the Lord’s day with all of the “inconveniences” that brings to a busy household has given me all of the energy I need for that busy household.

When six o’clock rolls around on Sunday night, I love the sound of the dishwasher starting and the laundry rolling and the smells of the work week coming at us. Taking the day off on Sunday has given me a deeper love for the days on. Monday morning enthusiasm for housework and routine. Digging out of the celebration of the Lord’s Day is in itself a refreshing thing. Turns out, greater obedience in this area gave me greater insight into what kind of rest I actually need. I don’t need a clean space, I need an obedient one. I don’t need a perfect haven of restfulness, I need a heart of rest. I don’t need all the external resources to celebrate the Lord’s Day without consequences. I need the consequences of the Lord’s Day for the rest of the days to be joyful.

I just found that picture up at the top in my old photos. My Grandpa’s well-worn, always-warm Naval Academy ring. A summer sabbath at our house, and it reminds me of one of his favorite old Navy quotes, “Goodie goodie, Monday morning, and another week in which to excel!”

Of course I would change it only slightly to another week in which to obey.


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29 thoughts on “Sabbath Hearts

  1. Thank you for writing this – a very enjoyable read. Our family has struggled with this for years – trying to discern what is unChristian “law keeping” – and what we should respect because God sanctified it from before the law (Genesis 2).

    The only thing my husband and I have come to agree upon with regard to this topic is that the Sabbath is actually Saturday. We see that it was the seventh day – not the first – that God sanctified after creation. (We do worship on the first day of the week – as we have Scriptural example for Christians…it’s just the Sabbath-keeping that I’m still working through.)

    Again – thank you. This was a beautiful, thought-provoking post! I see it’s time for me to wrestle with this one again.

  2. Interesting perspective and something I need to think about for sure as I tend to grumble about Sundays. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for this encouragement to obey without excuses! So does this mean you do your best to have meals for Sunday made ahead of time and just leave the mess of the dishes eaten upon until Sunday night? I can see how this regular practice of resting would fuel the work week, I just need my hand held a bit and shown how you are working it out! 🙂

  4. Sometime in college, I realized that the reason I “needed” to do work on Sunday was because I was taking my own Sabbath-hours during the week. The hours on Thursday evening that I should have spent doing homework were instead spent watching a movie (or countless other things). I was stealing my rest time from Sunday to spend throughout the week, then explaining to God that it just wasn’t possible to rest on Sunday! Look at all my work! Once I understood that much of my weekday free time was stolen from the Lord’s day, it put a little fire under me to get my work done on the six days of the week allotted for it.

    Now that I have a household with little ones, I latched on to what your dad said about getting to not work. What a joy it is to spend Sunday afternoon reading with my husband, neither of us anxious about what else needs to get done! Yes, some Sundays feel like extra work, not rest, but they’re a rejuvenating work.

    I have also found it helpful to schedule Monday as recovery day. Don’t plan anything extra, just do dishes, clean up, and recover from the busyness of the weekend.

  5. This is something that has been rolling around in my head for a while. I appreciate your explanation that it was a process of adding new habits, not a cold turkey, legalistic new regulation for your family. I tend to land there in my head and it is NOT good.

    To get to NOT. Hmm. Beautiful. I will pray about how God wants me to start integrating this into my family. I am unsure with all that is on our calendar, but God is bigger than my calendar. For that I am thankful.

  6. Our family was just discussing this topic this week!

    As a family, we have purposed to rest on the Lord’s day for several years now. Those books we read in front of the fire and the wonderful nap that follows or the card games around the coffee table with a bowl of snacks are something we look forward to each week.

    Our family discussion was centered around eating a meal on Sunday. We frequently go to a restaurant with church friends and enjoy grand fellowship around the table, tipping extra because we stay longer. But what about the people that are serving us? My husband’s question to the family was, “How are we encouraging them to rest on the Lord’s Day by eating in their establishment on Sunday afternoon?” We’re pondering this subject and would welcome some feedback but we sure dread giving up the fellowship.

    Willing to make adjustments,

  7. Hi Anna-
    We often eat leftovers, soup, etc. I try to keep some random frozen food around (fish sticks, potstickers, pizza) for Sunday nights when everyone wants dinner but I’m not making it.
    Recently I’ve started making something for lunch in advance, but usually really low key. I might make hummus and buy salami and fruit. Or maybe I will make homemade mac and cheese or something. Like I said, low key!

    I do generally leave the mess until 6, but it is more about not heading into the mess rolling up my sleeves until then.

  8. Love this post, Rachel! Keeping Sunday “a holy day” is a bit of a lost art in our culture. As a pastor’s wife, I freely admit that Sunday is probably the busiest day of my week! Thanks for this beautiful reminder to embrace it as a true day of rest.

  9. The Wilson family Sabbath feasts sound like such fun! What a blessing to have grandparents, aunts, cousins, brothers, etc all in the same town! Sundays are such a joy for us too. We live directly behind our church and love to have people walk over for lunch after church. My four kiddos are ages 6-11 and are so much help when I’m deliberate in leading them. On Saturday we clean and cook and set the table all fancy so it’s easy to feast on Sunday. We have donuts for breakfast Sunday am so there’s no cooking or cleanup. I’m a last minute kind if person so it’s been a wonderful challenge for me to learn to prep ahead! For us, having friends over makes Sundays such a delight! I asked my little ones last Sunday if all the Saturday work was worth it and they said, “Totally!!” I feel the same way! ????

  10. Hi there,
    Beautiful post!! I have always told myself if I had one more day in the week I could get everything done but I realized adding another day would only bring more responsibility and not more rest for me. So I have found it easier to instead of watching a show or going out on the other six days I sacrifice that time to prepare for the Sabbath. By doing that I have found it much easier to worship on Sabbath. Really worshipping with God with no rest is really what replenishes not really the rest itself. Your so right about wanting a house of obedience over anything else. It’s amazing how doing something in God’s way can really bring you peace no matter how disfunctional a situation may be. So I applaud you for everything you wrote it was very encouraging. Just one question why do you do it from Saturday at 6 to Sunday at 6? Looking forward to chatting with you. Be blessed.

  11. Hi there,
    Beautiful post!! I have always told myself if I had one more day in the week I could get everything done but I realized adding another day would only bring more responsibility and not more rest for me. So I have found it easier to instead of watching a show or going out on the other six days I sacrifice that time to prepare for the Sabbath. By doing that I have found it much easier to worship on Sabbath. Really worshipping with God with no rest is really what replenishes not really the rest itself. Your so right about wanting a house of obedience over anything else. It’s amazing how doing something in God’s way can really bring you peace no matter how disfunctional a situation may be. So I applaud you for everything you wrote it was very encouraging. Just one question why do you do it from Saturday at 6 to Sunday at 6? Looking forward to chatting with you. Be blessed.

  12. Thanks for this post. I appreciate the encouragement about not keeping the Sabbath “plus.” We, too, have a Lord’s Day feast, but ours in on Sunday. I like to do most of the prep for Sunday on Saturday. I try to not schedule many things on Saturday to make this possible. Monday does tend to be catch up day. I do know many families have their feast on Saturday evening before church the next day, especially pastors’ families since Sunday is often busy enough for them with duties at church. I’m not sure by Anna Joy’s question if she realizes the Wilsons’ feasting takes place on Saturday evening, not Sunday. Just want to make sure she doesn’t think they serve frozen pizza or fish sticks for their Lord’s Day feast!

  13. What do you do if you are dead keen for some big Sabbath feasting, but your husband isn’t too keen on it? My hub is a wonderful, Christian man but I think he thinks Sabbath feasts are well, American!:-) and we are not. I want to submit to him, but still make it a lovely day. I’m not sure how to go about that.

  14. i think your family sabbath tradition is a great one. i just read through yhe comments and would like to add a few thoughts/answers to questions that came up. i grew up in a christian church in germany, but now live in israel and am part of the messianic body here.

    first, biblically the sabbath is indeed actually saturday. christian tradition to worship on sunday is based upon the fact that jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (sunday). the first followors of jesus who were all jewish still worshipped in the synagoge on saturday, but also met daily according to the reports in acts, the lord’s supper was usually taken on sundays to remind of the death and rising of jesus. the move towards worship gatherings on sunday only are one result of the split between judaism and christianity and part of the anti-jewish movement in the church in the 3rd/4th century. so culturally in the west it does make sense to take sunday of as it is usually a day off work and the day of worship. however if you consider the root of sabbath as an universal sanctified day from creation on, it might feel right to some people to take saturday as a day of rest instead of sunday. i believe both is acceptable as is for pastors to take of a different day of the week as they work on sundays… we do keep the actual sabbath/saturday, but we live in israel were this is natural (sunday here is the first day of the work week and school)

    it is a jewish tradition based on the description in genisis one (it was evening and morning the first day etc) to start the day in the evening before until sundown the next day (sabbath here starts friday night at sunset until saturday night sundown).

    it is an interesting thing that man was created as the last creature on the sixth day, so basically the first day of mankind was the sabbath -day of rest.

    jesus rose on the first day of the week from the death, this is the beginning of the new earth – his kingdom on earth, people being transformed into a new creation by his ressurecting power.

    to those who mentioned stealing rest from the sabbath day during the week. the command for the sabbath indeed includes two parts ‘6 days you shall do all your work, and you shall keep the sabbath’

  15. I grew up Seventh Day Adventist and to an extent I always will be. Simply for love of the Sabbath. Once you experience it, you can’t live life without it. Like School Marm pointed out, the Sabbath doesn’t stem from the law but from Creation. It’s part of who we are. And like Dani said, if you don’t take God’s Sabbath, you will take the world’s. And the world doesn’t give rest. In our household we take Saturday as our day off. It’s our high day. It’s when we go on adventures, take hikes, get ice cream, or simply stay home in our jammies and read books. But on Sunday we gussie up and head to church. Not because of the Law, but because we would not forsake the gathering together of the Saints.

    I think it helps to realize that the Sabbath commandment is simply one of not working. And it’s clear. I lean towards the, “What does it say? Do what it says,” method of interpretation. I would be loathe to lay my even little finger to one of the direct commands of God. Especially without the alternate claim being just as strong. And personally, I think the whole “inscribed by the finger of God in stone” thing is hard to top. in the instance of Sunday worship, I don’t see anything with close to the same veracity. What I see, instead, is an example set by tradition. The church has every right to establish “holy” days and celebrations. To honor the day Christ rose from the dead seems well within her jurisdiction. Yet to transfer the Sabbath ordinance from Saturday to Sunday does not. Unless, of course, you’re Catholic. Then you have the Pope to settle the matter for you. If you don’t, you just have fancy exegetical footwork. The interpretive equivalent of the Charleston. A dance you will mostly likely look very funny doing.

    For me, I am happy to go to church on Sunday and fellowship with the Saints. I am breaking no commands to do so, and following in the tradition set by the church generations before me. I am also breaking no law when I get home from church and pull out my favorite refinishing project or remind my husband that a certain piece of sheetrock, destined for the bathroom ceiling, has been sitting in the garage for close to two years now. And that is where you really have the problem. Christians seem to feel the need to tell other people what they can and can’t do on Sunday. We know instinctively that we have to Sabbath. But we can’t seem to draw the lines. Can you definitively tell someone how to keep Sunday? There is really no peace and clarity around the subject. Instead there are a mass of opinions more reminiscent of, “Neglecting the commandment of God to hold to the traditions of men.”

    I think for a while the church tried to let the subject drop, we had made a mess of it. We tried to just forget the Sabbath and make do with our “liberty.” But we couldn’t. The Sabbath is built in. Either you work for your weekend you accept it by grace. Consequently, I believe everyone who makes an attempt to Sabbath will be blessed. God’s way is indeed better. But as we do so, we need to be especially careful not to mistake our word, or the word anyone else, for the Word of God. As more and more people take it upon themselves to honor the Sabbath, in their own homes and of their own volition, the more they will recognize how indispensable it is. And the more they will try to shove it down the throats of everyone else. If it is the command of God, the result will be freedom. But if our “Sabbath” is the result of the interpretations of men and ultimately the laws of men, then the result will be bondage. The Jews messed it up with their “laws” and the Christians have had their go at screwing things up in the past. I think where we draw that first line makes all the difference. Because there is truly only rest in obedience, not in pro bono legalism. We can party and celebrate all we want and still be in God’s grace, no matter if the day is spot on or not, but as soon as we start legislating for other people on His behalf, we’ve stepped onto His turf. And that’s not a place to mess around.

  16. I was so delighted to see this post! It is just one more confirmation that I need to be putting the Sabbath day into practice. It seemed far fetched to me to take a full day of rest. I was always justifying that since I still had to take care of my 4 young children on the Sabbath day, then it wasn’t really a restful day anyways–I may as well throw in a load of laundry, load up the dishwasher, and mop the floor too. At the end of the weekend I was tired and depressed about starting a new week. However, last week I reluctantly decided that I would just try obeying the Lord in this command. I prepared (a lot) on Friday to be ready for Saturday (my husband is a pastor, so we consider Sunday a workday). I made sure there would be no temptations to work the next day, so I made my house as clean as possible, went grocery shopping, put meals together. Then on Saturday, I just rested as much as possible. I stayed in my pajamas, did a lot of reading, and just enjoyed playing with my children without the distractions of the housework. And guess what?! I couldn’t wait to get back to my work on Sunday. I was well rested and ready for the week. God’s laws truly aren’t burdensome! They are for our own good!

  17. I love this post, and all the thoughtful and interesting responses. Definitely a lot of food for thought here!

  18. Thank you for this! I’ve just recently “discovered” that there can be Sabbath after growing up in a strict Christian tradition where Sabbath was for homework and lawn work and church work. That was one command we just seemed to decide to ignore. After 8 years of having my own home and family I heard our new pastor preach on the Sabbath, and lights went on all over in my head! Angels singing! I need this. I’ve read up on it and committed to practicing it. It hasn’t been perfect, and I’m dragging my husband and 3 kids into it with me, but the miracles God has worked in the past couple of months! I thought I would have to work harder to “give up” one day of work, but God has multiplied my time instead. I feel like I’m living for the first time. Thanks for filling out my Sabbath ammunition a little more.

  19. I have never truly considered ‘following the sabbath’. I am sort of struck by that. Thank you for sharing & I very much appreciate your words.

  20. Now that you’ve been deluged with comment after comment saying how good this is, I’m going to stick out like a sore thumb.

    Someone posted this article on their FB account and asked for thoughts. My response to him was:

    Seems to be very Pharisaical to me.

    The old “keep the Sabbath holy” RULE was in the OT because people did not have a constant in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit to live with them every moment of every day (that did not come until Pentecost). Because they did not have an indwelling reminder, they needed an external rule.

    What’s more – taking a macro view of the entire life teaching of Jesus, shows that He stressed that Christianity is not about rules (that’s what the Pharisees did); Christianity is 100% about a person’s heart. I believe He would want us to move AWAY from the Pharisaical trappings and TOWARD a minute by minute relationship.

  21. Thank you for writing this post. I shared your post with my husband. He does not come from a family who celebrates Sunday in the way you do. I would like to create a culture in our home where our children grow up loving Sunday, but know too that my husband needs to have the same desire. He was curious what you do on Sundays. I know there isn’t a perscription of how Sunday must be done, but do you have any Sunday activities that you could share for young families? Also, maybe address how you can heighten the anticipation of Sunday for your children. Thanks again.

  22. I dont ‘keep’ the Sabbath but your words have really struck me with a real joy! Isnt it the Spirit that gives life & isnt JOY indicative of the Spirit!! Love it! God is amazing…He calls us to enter His rest in Hebrews. In that our salvation is in a ceasation of our good works our efforts to earn our salvation & simply resting in His work at Calvary. Wow. Im thinking & its obvious that this isnt legalism!

  23. I can attest to this too. Although very type A and perpetually tempted to cross more stuff off my to-do list on Sundays, I always regret it now when I do. So much better to receive God’s gift of rest.

  24. Chris Barnes: What do you mean by Pharisaical? I do not read the author’s requirement put upon anyone else to keep the Sabbath (which is a LAW btw, not a rule.) If someone is convinced in his own mind that they need to keep the Sabbath in order to give more honor to the Lord or to be obedient to His Word, well, I think the church needs a lot more of that attitude these days. We are far too casual in our approach to Him and His Word.

    Also, I would like to know your scripture reference regarding the Holy Spirit and His role in our lives. He did not come to replace God’s Word in our hearts, but to illuminate it. The indwelling Spirit does not relieve us of our need to obey God’s Word.

    If the Christian life is 100% about anything, it is obedience, not our hearts. Fruit bearing (obedience) is the scriptural indicator of the condition of our hearts. James 2:14-18 applies here.

  25. I think what you really hit at that got my attention is the reiteration that Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. In those times that I’ve “accidentally” kept Sabbath (which is to say we made it to church but I didn’t quite get my act together all day but didn’t feel bad about it because it was Sunday), I’ve felt so rested and rejuvenated and yes, eager to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. Once again, its that wonderful feeling that comes out of obedience. Thanks for the reminder that the Sabbath is not supposed to be silence and hairshirts and insufferable boredom!

  26. keeping it low-key on Sunday…that’s a good word. Thank you for your reply! The dishes CAN wait 🙂 I definitely am experiencing lightbulbs as I see a desire throughout the week to escape the work and somehow get a break…duh! it is supposed to be built-in for me. My husband loves to “do nothing” on a free Saturday and previously this grated on me…I wanna work! He works hard to serve God and men all week and his instinct to relax is actually quite spiritual, not lazy, as I have shamefully charged him. I am growing into this truth and its necessity in our lives for longevity in full-time christian ministry! Thank you for your mentorship on this 😀

  27. I am a hospital nurse and a requirement of my job is to work every other weekend. I fully believe this falls under helping your neighbor pull his donkey out of the well, and I have neither husband nor children. However, I am curious if you have any thoughts on resting and obeying when half of my Sabbath is spent at work and not at home with my family.

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