Really, it’s pretty amusing when you step back and think about it.
Here we are, mothers of bustling families, running around like crazies all week, wishing for time off or a day out, and griping in our own heads about the amount of work there is to do. Sunday comes, the 10 Commandments are read, and we think, “Well, God didn’t actually mean one of those. There’s no way I can take a day off.”
Sure enough, the thing you know you need is exactly the thing God has made provision for. And instead of receiving it joyfully, we reenact the Israelites’ wandering.
Yes, I’m using “we” very deliberately here, because I am there with you; I’ve been struggling and whining and doubting and complaining for years over this issue. I’m starting to see and feel some dawning light, but it’s not something I’ve mastered yet or fully obey yet, not by a long stretch.
I need to be challenged to take the command seriously, though, and I bet you do to.
There’s one problem: Very few of the people writing about sabbath keeping are moms with young and growing children.
It’s very clear-cut for a career man or woman. They shouldn’t go in to work. It’s a home day. Good. What if all days are home days? What if the home is your work? What if you’re surrounded by your working list everywhere you turn? How can we actually take Sunday off, right smack in the middle of everything that needs to be done – and while people still insist on eating and making messes?
Because, let’s be real, Sunday morning is the most chaotic morning of the week. Clothes everywhere. Breakfast left out. Bathrooms disastrous.
How is that restful??
And that’s the trick right there. In Christ, we can rest, even when the house is falling down around us. Even when the to do list is still a mile long, if Christ says to us, “Hey, today, just stop.” Wouldn’t we?
Turns out we wouldn’t. Turns out we’re like the Israelites. God says there’ll be enough for the Sabbath, but we don’t gather extra and then complain when the manna doesn’t show up. God says he’ll take care of us, but we aren’t so sure because it doesn’t look the way we want it to look. We want a day of rest made in our own image.
Yes, a Sabbath should be a day of rest, but we start with our own expectations instead of with faith. We want the day to look like our version of rest. We want the house to be clean and calm and peaceful. In fact, we demand that it must be before we will make it a day of rest, so we scramble and scramble and never get there.
Sunday doesn’t look like the ideal version we’ve created in our heads, and so we say it doesn’t “count.” We refuse to receive the rest offered because it doesn’t look the way we expected or wanted it to.
What if taking a day of rest looked like leaving the laundry in the dryer and the dishes in the sink? What if it looked like not spazzing out over the bedrooms and bathrooms, even though there’s no other day of the week they look so bad?
But my Monday! I know. Mondays are hard, right? Now they’re just going to be worse. Great.
So grumble the Israelites, not believing that God knows what He’s doing and has got this covered.
True rest is by faith, not by sight. It is obeying first, trusting God will come through and make it all work. Turns out that sometimes it’s even obeying before it makes sense, before the issue is a clear-cut case in my own head!
Maybe I don’t need to understand what perfect obedience looks like before I begin. After all, Christ is my perfect obedience. Instead, I can take a small first step. I can say, “You know, for Sunday, I won’t care about the state of the kids’ rooms and I won’t make a to-do list and I won’t think about homeschooling.” Instead of trying to start with a total day of rest, perfectly out of the gate, start with the obvious and grow gradually from there.
Yes, I will make food and I won’t do it while wishing people didn’t have to eat everyday. Yes, I will wipe up a spill or wash wet sheets or give a child a bath or a hundred other little things – but I’m not counting each one as something I shouldn’t have to do with a discontented heart.
Turns out even on Sundays children need parents. Particularly on Sundays, children need parents who show them joy and strength and peace of mind in the Lord.
On Sunday I can make my bed if it’s a habit and I do it in joy. Or, if it doesn’t happen on a crazy Sunday morning, it won’t count against my track record. Sundays are free days. Sundays I remember that it’s not my work that gets me ahead or that matters apart from grace. Sundays are the day I remember everything must be done in trust.
A Sabbath day is a day I don’t try to get ahead.
Then, come Monday, when the work is there, I can dig in. I’ve rested. I can do what needs to be done with energy instead of resentment, with joy instead of bitterness and fatigue.
It’s not that the work disappears or that it’s another regulation to keep. Starting the week with a day of rest is a tangible, visible practice of offering to God the first fruits of my time and trusting Him for my needs – and even for Monday morning cheerfulness and energy.
Because so often the laundry pile has stared at me on Sunday evening, and I have crumbled. The state of the bathroom or the kids’ closets on Sunday morning makes me lose my cool.
I used to think that meant I had a planning problem or an execution problem – something was wrong and there was too much to do and AHHH. Now when that tense, anxious frustration begins to well up, I see not a problem with my workload, but with my pride and self-sufficiency.
I’m not ok with being Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet while He’s there, when His invitation comes to take a day of rest. There is a time to prepare and work and serve like Martha, and there is a time reserved for worship and rest like Mary. When the Lord’s Day is prioritized and taken in faith, those Martha jobs on Monday are not fretful and fussy, but joyful service, informed by Mary’s focus.
We don’t earn our day of rest by getting all our work done ahead of time, and a sabbath does not make work disappear. But it is a blessing, a gift offered, that we should receive with faith and gladness.
My thanks to Rachel Jankovic for continuing to push this topic, living it out and sharing about it. For more on this topic I recommend her podcast What Have You episode 27, Sabbath Hearts on her blog, and any webinar she offers.