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What is Sabbath (not) For?

A few weeks ago as I was receiving the gift of Sabbath (and dearly in need of it), I had a growing sense that the intent and possibilities of the day had become fuzzy. There likely was a time in history when men and women had fewer options and simpler lives keeping their practice of Sabbath cleaner and neater. We, on the other hand, swim in a stew of non-stop opportunities and possibilities, both for work and diversion. I think it was this visceral sensation of the too-muchness of the past few months that prodded me to reconsider and reclaim a gift that I had increasingly been unwilling to receive.

So, I made a simple list to provide a framework around the day. What is the day for? And just as important what is it NOT for?

The list is my list, not anyone else’s. If you need a list, you’ll have to come up with your own! But my list can serve as a guide helping you establish your own norms for Sabbath. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but when we don’t state Sabbath norms anything goes and with it some of the finest gifts of Sabbath go right with it.

So here’s my list. Sabbath is NOT for..

- Work (this one’s harder than you’d think if you consider all your work)

- Shopping (this one’s easier for some of us than others!)

- Entertaining (this one’s for the introvert in me)

- The virtual world / technology / email (this is for the compulsivity that needs an intervention)

- Planning (this is for the distraction of the future from the virtue of the present moment)

- Others (this is for recovering my self as someone apart from others)

- Heavy Communication (this is for relaxing the mind and emotions)

Sabbath IS for...

- Rest

- Prayer

- Creative endeavors

- Slowing

- Non-productivity

- Mental and emotional release

- Play

- Being an individual

- Music

- Nature

- Relational disengagement

- Me

- Music (for some reason I wrote this twice!)

- Tinkering

- Emptying

- Gratitude

- Health / Healing / Repair

- Recovering perspective / Clarity

- Re-grounding

As I look back over my list I’m glad the list of what Sabbath is for is longer than what it’s not for. I actually started with the “for” list and then had a sense that to safeguard the gifts present in Sabbath, there have to be some boundaries in place. If not, I would not be able to open or receive the gifts of this day.

As I wrapped up my list with the summary statement I jotted down, it seemed to tie it all together: Sabbath involves saying “Yes!” to what I say “No” to the other six days of the week; and “No!” to what I say “Yes” to the rest of the week.

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