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A lot of things change when you become a parent.
One of the main things I’ve noticed when I become one is the amount of resources I have available to give shrink considerably. I am constantly tired, weary, exhausted from keeping little ones alive, let alone happy.
For many parents, and perhaps you’re one, you’ve cut a lot of things out of your life to accommodate the caring of kids. Ironically, the one thing I haven’t cut out is my Sabbath time. In fact, I’ve made it even more important.
In this article, I want to help you parents out there understand first why Sabbath needs to increase in your life, how you can Sabbath, and what to do on your Sabbath.
In order to understand why we have to talk about leverage.
Why Leverage (and Sabbath) is So Important in Parenting
My favorite picture of understanding leverage is trying to lift a heavy object. You can yank at it, tug at it, and pull at it but you’ll expend an incredible amount of energy (and might even pull your back) trying to do so.
Leverage is the ability to lift something by employing a medium.
The amazing thing about leverage is that the weight of the object you’re trying to lift hasn’t changed. It still is really heavy.
Such is the practice of parenting. Parenting will always be hard.
But what if we had leverage in our lives to do the task? Would you rather drag, tug, and pull your back trying to parent, or would you rather use a greater strength for the task?
For this reason, when resources are limited, it’s extremely important to use all the leverage we can in parenting so that at the end of the day, we have not pulled our back.
But many do pull their backs. Many drive themselves needlessly to the ground. They have done so because they have not arranged their life in such a way that they have the greatest strength for the task.
How then do we gain leverage and strength for the incredible task of parenting? It starts with understanding the hierarchy of power in our lives.
The most important thing in our lives is God.
Second is loving ourselves.
Energy and power flow downward in that hierarchy. It’s ironic because the demands of parenting most often flip those needs around.
In the face of hungry and screaming children, they become first, our spouses get neglected, and we and God get shoved way back there in the hierarchy.
But the reality is when one corrects their hierarchy they will find they have the strength to parent. When we put God first, take care of ourselves, we have all the energy, wisdom, power, and strength to be able to pour into marriage and subsequently into our children.
How Sabbath Provides Power to Parents
And here’s where Sabbath fits in the picture.
Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. What that means is that it’s a practice that God designed to serve us and to help us.
What the Pharisees were robbing of in multiple instances in the gospels was the opportunity for people to use the Sabbath. Instead of teaching the people how to use the Sabbath to help people, they laid on them meaningless and laborious laws.
So then it begs the question: What is the Sabbath meant to solve?
In my book, I talk extensively about the Sabbath that is way too comprehensive to delve into here but I’ll do my best.
Sabbath was always meant to be a powerful time of re-creation. In other words, something is created a new within us.
The time of rest offers rest, refreshment, and perspective on life. It adjusts and focuses us away from the tyranny of the urgent and back on the deepest things that God has planted into our hearts. A person who has the opportunity to engage in those areas, I assure you, is a person who is living a full life.
When I practice Sabbath every week, I feel as if I’m coming out a new man. I am, of course, refreshed physically and mentally. But I feel that I have just sat in God’s presence and have been done the greatest revelation I need to hear at any given moment.
I take that power and revelation back into the thick of marriage and parenting with something I didn’t have before. Yes you guessed it–leverage.
Instead of driving ourselves into the ground, Sabbath provides a weekly opportunity to gain leverage in one’s life so that they parent in abundance, not lack. When one understands this principle about Sabbath, it no longer becomes a matter of not having enough time to Sabbath, it becomes a matter of not having enough time not to Sabbath.
The person who understands this realizes that they will always get more out of Sabbath than then put in. They understand they always earned more than they spent in order to Sabbath. Instead of the poor person who retreated to the corner and hoarded their life energies, the person who Sabbaths invests what little energy they had and came out a richer person.
And similar to the power of compound interest, the life of that person gets richer and richer over time.
And that, my friends, is the power of Sabbath
How We Practice Sabbath: 3 Principles
If you’re a parent here are some tips and guidelines on how to Sabbath well. My wife and I have been practicing Sabbath for years and it has so greatly benefited our lives.
Sabbath is practiced alone
The first principle of Sabbath is that it is practiced alone. To cease from work is to cease from the people of work. For us, we translate that to being alone.
Once a week, we find some way for the other person to be able to be alone. If it’s my wife who is taking a Sabbath, I will be watching all the kids.
Do not bemoan the task of watching kids while your significant other practices Sabbath. Understand that their gain doubles your gain. What I mean by that is when my spouse is refreshed, I in turn, reap the rewards of a spouse who is full of life and energy. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose by serving her.
In being alone, you are removed from the people and contexts that form your life. I talk about this extensively in my book, but there is a freeing and empowering work when we are alone.
First principle: Be alone.
Sabbath is practiced away
We do not allow the person who practices Sabbath to be home. It is based on this powerful principle:
The longer we are in a context, the harder it is to make objective observations about it.
One of the point of Sabbath is be able to regain vision and perspective on every area of your life. However, it is impossible to do so when you are still in those contexts. It is important to be away.
When we are away, we are not thinking about chores, we are not thinking about the things we have to do.
Rather, we are allowed to be in a space where we can look at our lives from the outside in and remake objective observations about it.
Second principle: Sabbath is practiced away.
Sabbath is Practiced with God
Sabbath is not just a time to be completely alone. We are never really alone; we are met by one who designed and invented Sabbath.
The power of recreation that I spoke of happens when we are in God’s presence.
Begin each Sabbath time with a prayer of invitation of asking God to come. You will find that throughout the time you are practicing, praying, or journaling, God is the one doing the powerful additions and transformations in your life.
What We do in Sabbath
Sabbath has a few key ingredients.
I explain in greater detail in my book, but I’ll try to summarize.
A great deal of time is spent journaling. A great time is spent casually talking with God and praying. A great time is spent reading the Bible.
Outside of that, depending on what kind of person you are, choose to do things that recreate you as a person.
Also what this means is that Sabbath is practiced without our phones. I leave my phone in the car when I Sabbath. It is crucially important that whatever I’m about to receive is done so without distractions in front of me.
When Do We Practice Sabbath
Balancing schedules as parents is tricky.
Every season has schedules, commitments, pickups, etc. My wife and I make a habit of reassessing the rhythms the present season offers and figuring out how to Sabbath within the season.
It is the principle of trying to fit rocks into a jar. If you put the small rocks in you won’t have room for the large ones. Rather, when you first put the large rocks in, you will find room to put the small rocks.
Such is the case with thinking about Sabbath. When you put it as the large rock of your week, it will happen. If it’s an afterthought, it won’t.
We speak of Sabbath as a large rock and make plans accordingly.
My joy and the aim of this site is to help readers go deeper in their Christian faith.