Intentional Rest: Self care vs. Sabbath

How many of us live in a constant fog because we have over-committed ourselves and now we are trying to deliver out of the final dregs of our creativity, or passion? How often do you feel lost regarding how to navigate life from a place of “rest” or “minimalism?” Do your ears burn from having heard the words “self-care” so often, yet unsure of what that looks like for your own life?

With our constantly plugged-in lives feeding us notifications of what everyone else on the planet is doing, thinking, or sharing, it’s easy to feel that our days are busy, yet amounting to nothing. Even as I sit here typing, I am aware of the clock which tells me I only have so many minutes before I have to leave to pick up my daughter from camp. And then, a few hours later, I have to pick up the other one.

“Self-care” has become a popular thought, just like the word “hustle,” and we’ve become content to ride the pendulum between these two extremes. Even if we are unsure of what it means to embrace “self-care,” we occasionally dip a toe into some form of it so that we have something to contribute to the droning conversation about how important it is.

A favorite quote about true self-care comes from Brianna Wiest, and I can’t even remember where I stumbled upon her article, but this one line sums up how she feels about the idea: “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”I would recommend reading the entire article (note: minor profanity use).

If self-care is a form of escape, then how sad that we need it on the regular— that our lives are so full that we need to take these constant breaks. What would it look like to live a life where we were intentionally making space for rest (for our minds, bodies and souls), and not needing the frequent escapes. What if we were intentional about what we say yes to, and removed the “busy?” What it we were to trade entertainment, distraction, and luxury, for purposeful rest? What would happen if we started to embrace the long-standing tradition of Sabbath, rather than exchanging this idea of true rest for a quick trip to the nail salon, Target, the coffee shop, or the gym.

Among Christians there is a consensus that God is a fan of rest. It’s one of the first commands that He first gave His people— decidedly carving it into a rock. Right next to not killing people, or stealing, or committing adultery, there is a line about segregating one day each week for rest. This day was called “Sabbath,” and for many of the Judeo-Christian belief, it is still practiced. Unfortunately, by the first century AD, the meaning had been lost in translation and what was a command, “to stop,” became lists of religious demands and legalistic rules. Today, for most Christians, all that Sabbath means is attending a one-hour church service once a week.

But what God intended for us was something so much richer and life-giving. It was something that He invited Adam into and then reintroduced to His people after bringing them out of Egypt. It was a call to embrace rest, and eradicate hurry. It was a command to slow down, to commune with Him— to focus refueling ourselves: body, mind and soul, to worship, to eat, to offer thanks, to remember, to savor the present.

Is that how many of us would describe our “Sabbath” day? Aren’t most of us still plugged-in, still doing work— because if we aren’t checking email, then the boss will be mad, and if we don’t answer our phones, then the checks will stop showing up. If we aren’t working our jobs, we are slaving at the side hustle or hobby; we are rushing to sports practices, games, preparing for events, hosting events, running errands, and doing everything except resting and refueling. If we were able to stop long enough we’d realize that self-care is not the same as choosing to celebrate Sabbath.

In case you want some additional and practical ideas, I’ve listed a few below:

  • If completely turning off your phone isn’t an option, then maybe try shutting off the notifications, or putting it in sleep or do not disturb mode for part of the day.

  • Designate an area where the phones charge, and stay— during your Sabbath day.

  • Prepare for your day of rest.

    • Make a big dinner the day before so you have leftovers, or pick-up take-out.

    • Do the chores the day before your Sabbath so that you’re not distracted by things needing your attention.

    • Run errands on another day, so you aren’t going to ten places on your day of rest.

  • Make sure “fun” is fun for everyone. The extroverts in the house can dictate an early morning out for activities, but then the introverts get to assume an early night in— pizza and movie night, maybe?

How can you (personally) eradicate hurry? Where have you said “yes” that you really shouldn’t have? Is there room in your schedule for spontaneous plans or life-giving activities? Have you fallen into the “need for self-care” trap and now recognize that the Netflix—binges til 2 am, or bubble baths aren’t entirely cutting it.

Are you doing a good job of honoring the Sabbath (whichever day it is that you observe it)? Are the days’ activities considered “restful,” or is it just a catch-up day that leaves you running and ragged instead of refueled and refreshed? How can you make some small steps to turn that around? How can you start living more intentionally regarding rest?