My husband is really good at doing nothing in the best of ways. In my husband’s mind weekends are for waking up late, talking over a cup of coffee, playing with the dog, planning a fun trip, taking leisurely walks, reading a book, going out for dinner with friends, and playing board games.
He basically has to chain me down for me to join him. I see stacks of laundry, piles of dishes, that stack of mail precariously poised to fall off our countertop. I work a busy workweek, and what better time to do the chores than that big space of free time on Sundays? I mean, you expect me to sit around and do…well, nothing?
Although it was nice to see those bold “X’s” on my to-do list, I found that I felt just as tired at the end weekends as at the end of a workweek. I was on an endless tilt-a-whirl—day after day after day would go by and I couldn’t see the end of obligations. I was stressed and my motivation was shot.
God drew me to taking a Sabbath not through theological arguments—He got me through exhaustion (He works in mysterious ways…). I was freaking out over a stack of dishes and saw my husband sitting on the couch, reading a book. And something clicked in my mind. Maybe not all of the time…but a single day of nothing? That might be exactly what I need.
Take a Break
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (in Mark 2:27). I think that Jesus is really standing there thinking: “My word, just take the break I’m trying to give you.” I decided to start taking this gift seriously.
Just like every gift of God, it was exactly what I needed. I have time for meaningful conversations with my husband, dinners with family, leisurely walks to just enjoy nature. Basically, every once in a while I can enjoy the life that God has given me.
Now that Sabbaths are a regular part of my week, I have five suggestions for you to develop your Sabbath:
1. Cut out *one* chore, work task, or homework item on your Sabbath. I really wanted to say no chores, work, or homework, but I think that may be too super intense. Maybe it’s the laundry that always seems to accumulate right around Sunday. Maybe it’s that last minute grocery run. Maybe it’s those papers that seem best to do late on a Sunday night. Maybe you have a weekly meeting on Mondays that you prep for on Sundays. Find one thing that you can give up—and make more time for prayer, rest, and enjoying time with the Lord.
2. Switch to a different Sabbath (if needed). So, this was something that was completely new to me. This is a trick some priests do—because their Saturdays and Sundays are so slammed, they pick a weekday to take a Sabbath. I used to work in youth ministry, where Sunday was our most intense work day. Monday became my day of rest, a day to really re-focus, enjoy the things I loved without stressing too much about work.
3. Pick a reoccurring volunteer activity. Be about God’s work! It may be hard to see past our own work and families’ needs, wants, and obligations. God has called us to reach out past our own to-do list. Maybe it’s a simple activity: lectoring or playing piano at mass, offering to drop off food donations to the local food pantry, helping out with a community garden, or visiting a friend who’s lonely and needs someone. Maybe you’re willing to dive a little deeper: volunteer as a catechist, lead a bible study, run bingo at a local nursing home. Rest doesn’t mean doing nothing! It means experiencing the peace of doing God’s Will.
4. Have a meal with friends or family. The key is that this should be with people you genuinely enjoy. Spend time being loved on your Sabbath. Let someone make you laugh out loud. Share joys and sorrows from the week. Holiness is not always solemn and refined; holiness can be beer, brats, and best friends.
5. Schedule a time to do nothing. I was thinking something along the lines of morning, afternoon, or evening. Schedule nothing during this time. My husband and I do mornings—we cook a simple breakfast and lounge around with coffees until noon mass. We make time to talk, to enjoy ourselves, to really rest our minds from the “busy”-ness of life. At first, this can be super tough! It’s amazingly difficult to not plan “stuff” to fill our days. But this becomes a rich time for relationships, for peace, for contentment just by being.