Practicing a weekly day of rest can recalibrate your soul and save you from a life of busyness and burnout.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, a consistent, defined, uncompromised weekly day of rest has been one of the keys to helping me develop a sustainable pace of life, be highly productive, and enjoy life in a deeper and more meaningful way.
In my last post, I took a deep dive into helping you establish a daily Rhythm of Rest. This time, I want to help you establish a weekly Rhythm of Rest.
“Like Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread”
After sixty years of possessing the “One Ring” – an evil ring crafted by Sauron the deceiver meant to control all others – the hobbit named Bilbo Baggins described himself this way:
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
Have you ever felt like Bilbo?
Bilbo goes on to say that he is in need of a “very long holiday” (vacation).
May I suggest we all need a weekly “holiday?”
A Weekly Holiday
Whether or not you’re a person of faith, a weekly day of rest is absolutely crucial to developing a healthy and sustainable pace and rhythm in life. The word “Sabbath” is a Jewish word that simply means to rest, to cease, to stop. The Jewish people had 39 major categories with hundreds of subcategories of things they couldn’t do on the Sabbath. Some of those the things included now are:
- Opening an umbrella or unfolding a screen
- Switching off an electric light (extinguishing a fire)
- Tearing through lettering on a package (erasing)
- Applying makeup (dyeing)
- Making a bouquet of flowers (making a sheaf)
Rabbi’s even went so far as to recommend a person should avoid “long strides and rushing about” to separate from the pace of walking on hurried weekdays. Anything that involved productivity was off-limits.
As you can see, practicing Jewish people take the Sabbath very seriously. I’m not proposing we adopt the same list of rules, but maybe there is more to the story than just rules and regulations?
Author Ruth Haley Barton calls Sabbath-keeping the “Kingpin” of a life lived in sync “with the rhythms that God himself built into our world.” It’s more than just a day of rest; it is a way of ordering one’s entire life around a pattern of working six days and then resting on the seventh.”
If you want to take a deeper dive into that side of things, you can check out my book Rest Assured: Seven Days to Stillness, Sanity, and the Sabbath You Need.
Sabbath, My Saving Grace
Because my tendency is workaholism, I can honestly say without a defined and consistent day of rest, I may have destroyed my life long ago. Sabbath has saved me more than once from crashing and burning. If it weren’t for Sabbath, I’m convinced I may not be married and wouldn’t have survived twenty years of ministry. It has become a cherished weekly rhythm that I greatly anticipate, and I rarely compromise it for anything. On the occasion that I need to work on my set day of rest, I make sure I define a different day that week instead. And if I can’t do that, I try to build two half-days of rest into my schedule.
Crafting Your Day of Rest
When it comes to a weekly day of rest, it should be restful and life-giving. Nothing is off-limits except things that put you into productivity mode as it relates to your work or business. It’s also best to avoid things that are stressful like difficult conversations, bills, running errands, or housework.
Rather focus on things that bring you life and joy. For some that could mean long walks, time with family, afternoon naps, or reading a good book by the fire. For others it could be a family dinner or dinner with friends, worshiping with your faith community, or slow sex with your spouse.
My family starts preparing for Sabbath on Thursday evening or Friday afternoon by doing all our chores so we don’t have to worry about them on Saturday. We order food or get some pizzas to throw in the oven so Gina doesn’t have to cook. Then we have a family night. We watch a movie or a few episodes of a television show. Sometimes we play a game or go get ice cream.
While most of the family sleeps in on Saturday, I get up somewhat early (but not too early) because I like to get some quiet reading time. I read things I don’t normally get a chance to read during the week – a good article or a book I’ve been wanting to dive into. Then I go work out or take a run before most of the family is up and around.
Later in the morning, the kids do their media time while Gina and I have our weekly “appointment.” That’s our code word for sex. I suggest couples make a goal of having sex at least once per week. If you want to read more about some marriage stuff that has helped us get past anniversary number 20, you can read that here. In Jewish tradition, married couples get rabbinical brownie points for having sex on the Sabbath. Now that’s my kind of religion!
Often, we spend time as a family going to the park, playing some video games, or working on a project around the house. For me, that doesn’t feel like work. I do enjoyable but demanding mental work all week – writing, speaking, thinking, and meeting with people – so working with my hands is actually a break. It pulls me away from the intangible work of leadership and allows me to see the result of what I’m doing. I’m not a very good carpenter, but I like to putter around in the garage (yes that’s a thing) and get out some power tools (grunt).
Afternoons usually involve my wife taking some time for herself, me taking a power nap, and the kids doing something they enjoy as well.
When should you take your day of rest? The short answer is whenever it works best! We do ours from Friday at 5 PM to Saturday at 5 PM. Because I’m a pastor, Sundays – while enjoyable – aren’t necessarily restful!
How should I do my day of rest? Again, focus on things that are life-giving and joyful, that aren’t a part of your normal routine. Try making a list of the things that bring you joy. Talk it over with your family and brainstorm some ideas. Try some things and see how they make you feel. In her article, Rhythms of Work and Rest, Ruth Haley Barton says Sabbath is for three things:
- Resting your body
- Replenishing your spirit
- Restoring your soul
What if I don’t have time to take a whole day of rest? Try starting with a half-day. Then deliberately work to eliminate enough so you can take a whole day. If your current job or pace of life doesn’t allow you at least one day of rest, you may seriously need to think about finding a new job or drastically eliminating some things – if you want to a sustainable and healthy pace of life that is.
Do’s and Don’ts for on Your Day of Rest:
Don’t run errands. Do take a nap.
Don’t talk about contentious issues if you can avoid it. Do focus on the things you like and appreciate about each other.
Don’t check email or surf the web. Do read a good book you enjoy.
Don’t watch the news. Do listen to some good music.
Don’t go to the mall. Do take a hike or a walk.
Don’t be alone all day. Do spend some quality time with your spouse, children, or a friend.
You get the idea. Now go try it!
What is ONE step you can take today to implement a day of rest or make your current day of rest more restful?
Check out the other posts in the series:
- Rhythms of Rest Intro: My Bout with Burnout
- Rhythms of Rest 1: “You Are What You Do Daily”
- Rhythms of Rest 3: How You Can Stay Focused on the Things That Matter Most
- Rhythms of Rest 4: “I Need A Vacation!”