How is it possible to practice Sabbath?
Like any spiritual practice, taking a day to rest requires discipline. It also requires preparation. Jesus and his contemporaries called the day before Shabbat “Preparation Day.” Anyone who has ever practiced Sabbath knows why. In order to take time off, we must be ready.
I am a mom of two teenagers who works two jobs. This week was full of work, driving kids to soccer and track meets, domestic chores, volunteering at church, and so on. Today I spent time with friends, but then I came home to prepare. My kids and I also cleaned the house–it’s easier to rest without clutter calling to be straightened or dust bunnies dancing through the room. I took my son shopping (something we don’t do on Sabbath) and ran through the grocery store one last time so that I won’t have to do that tomorrow. I thought about what I will cook this evening and what leftovers will be available tomorrow so that I have a day off from fixing and planning meals.
I remember talking about Sabbath once at a retreat and a woman remarked that it would take a lot of advance work in order to have a day of rest. I told her she would do the same if she were having guests to her home: she’d clean, shop for food, etc. before they came. She would not be vacuuming while trying to entertain. She nodded–of course not. So, I said, think of Sabbath as a day when Jesus is a guest, when he comes over to hang out with you. Why would you run to WalMart or dust? I could tell by the look on her face that this was all new information to her, but that she got it.
Spiritual practices require us to be intentional. When we pray or study, for example, we set other tasks aside, if only for a little while. Sabbath is just another practice, and one with incredible transformative potential.
So today is Preparation Day. In addition to preparing my home and a meal, I spend a little time preparing my heart. I slowly try to let go of things that cause me anxiety. Even as I go through tasks, I’m asking God to make me ready, to help me let go of needing to be busy. I prepare to worship, to love, to simply rest.