Across from me sat a precious couple who was pulled in a hundred directions. The tension, even though it was from the outside world, was taking it’s toll on their marriage. Both of them woke up every day giving the best they had to their children, their ministries and their families. Neither of them could remember the last time they had a day to themselves, to play, to nap, to go slow enough to follow a toddler’s lead.
Everything was scheduled and all of the best things in their life were being pushed out by the good things.
Listening to them was like a traveling back in time for me. My husband and I were in that very same space of life almost 18 years ago. I ached to tell this couple to honor the time they have with each other and with their little ones. I wanted to tell them that nothing is worth the rush, the ambition of getting to the next thing and missing what is right here today.
I gave them one assignment: one day a week with nothing scheduled for any member of their family. When they were asked to pull out their calendar and commit to anyone for any reason, I suggested that they pretend that one day was not even on the page. It would be like living in a world with only six days a week.
It occurred to me as we were collaborating on this cutting edge intervention for family stress, how much all of my clients would have benefited if this is where we started. Obviously, this idea did not originate in my office. Sabbath is an ancient and holy practice and it might be the cure to our cultural insanity.
Maybe we are depressed because we are overly-scheduled and exhausted.
Maybe we are anxious and distracted because we are always revving in such a high gear.
Maybe we are fighting with our spouse and our kids are fighting with each other because no one has had a break in a really long time.
We take breaks or we break.
And, friends, we are breaking.
Relationships are slow. Human development cannot be rushed. Time is our greatest commodity and we are giving it away for nothing in return. When we move quickly, we don’t remember. Even the sweet rituals of playing with our kids, driving or eating together as a family, will not be stored as memories if we are rushing through them.
Fight or flight was meant to be a useful tool for survival. When everything in our life is scheduled, we look to the clock as if it’s a ticking time bomb, we must hurry, hurry, hurry. We can’t slow down to see why our son is crying or take five or ten or sixty minutes to help our daughter learn how to tie her shoes.
While I have regrets about much of my early years of parenting, one of the things I am proud of is our decision to take back our Saturdays. Until my kids started school, my husband worked a job where he was away most weekends. When the children were 3 and 5 years old, he started a new job and finally we had weekends together. Guess where we spent all of those Saturdays? Standing with adults we did not know and could not get to know, watching our kids go crazy with twenty other children, longing for another piece of dry birthday cake as our reward for suffering through yet another stranger’s birthday parties.
We were miserable. We made a decision to make no commitments on Saturdays. It was our day. Our day to drink coffee while the kids watched cartoons for hours. Our day to spend at the park or in the backyard. Our day for the kids to learn how to ride their bikes. Our day to visit with our neighbors and play board games with our family.
I will never regret one of those Saturdays. Even if we fought. Even if there was complaining that we missed this event or that one. Even if we didn’t have much fun that particular day.
We honored the Sabbath by accident. Now that our kids have lives of their own we have to be much more flexible and inventive in finding ways to create Sabbath.
In this day and time one of the simplest solutions is having a technology Sabbath. From sundown on one day to sundown the next, no screens.
It’s amazing what we have discovered in the space of unscheduled time with no technology to fill it. Some of the things we suddenly find in our Sabbath space: books we’ve been meaning to read, those fabulous zen coloring books, conversations we’ve been meaning to have, a walk through our neighborhood, an afternoon nap, ingredients to make cookies, taking time to really pet and talk to our dog, learning a new song on the piano or drums, writing another chapter in that novel, actually watching the sunrise and the sunset.
Being a human is not easy. We walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders and it’s not just adults that feel this weight. Children and teenagers are also burdened with overwhelming pressures and expectations.
Sabbath is an invitation to sit back and be a part of creation.
It is a time when we can receive the gifts that this day has to give us and take a break from believing that our world only spins on the axis of our own efforts.