This is episode 55, and today we’re talking about how abiding caregivers celebrate the Sabbath. Instead of feeling guilty that we can’t spend the Sabbath like others who don’t have the same responsibilities we have, we can focus on celebrating the rhythms of the Sabbath and not be bound by the rules. What’s at the heart of our discussion today is the reminder that Jesus offers rest every day, not just once a week.
- Giving Sabbath a Rest at Christianity Today by Delina Pryce McPhaull
- #AbidingCaregiver – Self Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver Facebook group
Jan. 18th: Celebrating the Sabbath as Abiding Caregivers
Hi friends, this is Self-Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver, and I’m your host Sandra Peoples. To us, self-care isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. We need to take better care of ourselves so we can care for those God has entrusted to us.
This is episode 55, and today we’re talking about how abiding caregivers celebrate the Sabbath. How is it different for abiding caregivers than everyone else? Well, we can’t turn off everything in our lives for 24 or even 12 hours like it seems many people who write about Sabbath keeping are able to do. We can’t always choose rest because our rest depends on the needs of the person we care for. Thinking that the Sabbath is a list of what we can do and can’t do puts too much pressure on us and takes away from what God intended when He gave us the gift of the Sabbath. I hope our discussion today will bring freedom to your Sabbath rhythm!
At the beginning of each new year, I like to read productivity books. January is a time for me to evaluate our family’s routines and figure out if there’s a better way to do what we’re doing. Last year I was reading one of these books, and it had a whole chapter on the Sabbath. It started with a history and theology of the Sabbath. Then at the end of the chapter, the author shared what he and his family did on Saturdays, the day they set apart to rest, to honor the Sabbath. And you know what? My family can’t do a single one of the things he recommended!
He said no cooking, no cleaning, no phones, no leaving the house. According to him, they slept in, read books, took naps, and had stimulating family discussions. Now, don’t hear me say any of that is bad. It isn’t. But none of it works for me. And it’s not only because I have a son with autism who would struggle with those conditions. I’m also married to a pastor who can’t turn off his phone for an entire day, especially the day before our church services. My older son David is involved in community theater, and his rehearsals are on Saturdays. His suggestions don’t work for us.
Let’s say maybe unlike this author, we wanted to Sabbath on Sundays. Well, that doesn’t work either. It’s a workday for us, not just because Lee is a pastor, but also because I coordinate our special-needs ministry. There are often meetings after the service or on Sunday evening. We may hear of a need in the morning and find a way to help in the afternoon. Sundays aren’t restful days when you’re a ministry family.
When I look at our weekend schedule and can’t find a full 12 or 24 hours to Sabbath, I can feel guilty or even shame. My mind starts off sentences with that word I’ve talked about before that we can listen for as a warning: should. I should do this, or our family should do that. Too many shoulds can lead to guilty feelings or legalism, even legalism in things that are designed for our good. Let me share what I learned from someone who experienced this first-hand.
Years ago, like maybe even 10 years ago, I became online friends with a pastor’s wife who asked me to write for her pastor’s wife blog. As we got to know each other, I realized she and I didn’t have all the same experiences in our churches. In her words now, she was in a Sabbatarian religion where they practiced Sabbath observance as a matter of law. As she and her husband moved out of that tradition, she could clearly see what happened when a good practice, like the Sabbath, took an unhealthy and unbiblical turn.
Delina McPhaull wrote an article for Christianity Today that honestly, I go back to a few times a year, when I’m feeling that pressure to force our family into a Sabbath routine we just can’t fulfill. I’ll link to it in the shownotes, and I hope you’ll click over to read it, but let me share some quotes with you now. After explaining the four views of the Sabbath, she writes,
“Believers in Jesus, whether or not you honor a holy day, must define Sabbath primarily as resting in Jesus. Anyone can take a day off. We have the privilege of experiencing the incarnation of Sabbath. Let’s not miss it.”
Friends, these words feel like a burden being lifted from my shoulders. And I can totally see the irony in that—that I was feeling a burden surrounding what was supposed to be a day of rest. Maybe you feel that way too. Delina was reading books and articles by people with prescriptions about what we should and shouldn’t do on the Sabbath like I was, but she knew what living by that law could bring. She also writes in her article:
“I knew a weekly day of rest would not eliminate busyness, workaholism, or a restless heart. The cure for those things was found in resting in Jesus. What could be sweeter than having ‘a palace in time’ every week? Living in that palace full time. That’s what rest in Jesus is about.”
The good news for those of us who can’t Sabbath the way others can, or the way others think we should, is that we don’t have to. Jesus provides rest for us every day, not just on the Sabbath day. Our theme verse for this podcast is John 15:5, ” I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” That invitation to abide is for every day!
In Matthew 11, Jesus doesn’t say “you will find rest for your souls one day a week.” He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He offers rest every day, every hour even. And friends, that’s really good news.
Now, freeing ourselves from the pressure to celebrate the Sabbath a certain way doesn’t mean we abandon the lessons the Sabbath teaches us. At the heart of the Sabbath pattern is a reminder of our limitations. We were designed with the need to rest. Our souls want to praise God, and we are encouraged in Scripture to meet with other believers weekly for corporate praise and Bible study. There is also a pattern in Scripture of celebration surrounding the Sabbath. To me, these are the qualities Jesus was referring to when He said Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath in Mark 2:27. He was freeing us from following strict rules by reminding the Pharisees that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
So as abiding caregivers, how can we celebrate the spirit of the Sabbath without feeling the guilt of strict Sabbath-keeping? I’ll share how my family does this, but remember I’m describing what it’s like at our house and not prescribing what it should be like at yours. Even for us, this rhythm is flexible depending on our season and needs. But I do hope it reflects the spirit of the Sabbath and reminds each one of us of our limitations as humans and our dependence on God.
When I think about the spirit of the Sabbath, I can identify parts of what make up the whole, or the ingredients if that’s helpful way to view it. What are the ingredients that would make the Sabbath the Sabbath? I have come up with three: rest, enjoy, and worship. I’ll share what it looks like in our family to include these in our weekly rhythm.
Our Sabbath rhythm actually starts on Fridays because that’s my husband’s day off. In the morning we wrap up anything we need to do from the week or do a cleaning project around the house. We usually go out to lunch so we get a little date time. In the afternoons we slow down and rest if we can. For Lee, that usually means a nap. For me that might mean reading a book or watching one of my favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Friday night dinners were stressful for me, but a few weeks ago I decided we would make homemade pizza on Friday nights. It’s one of the few meals all four of us eat, so it’s perfect. And if Lee and I had a big lunch, it isn’t a big deal if he and I skip dinner since leftover pizza always gets eaten at some point. We don’t usually do a lot on Friday nights, like go out or have people over, so even the evening feels more restful. Especially since we aren’t planning for what’s coming the next day.
Saturdays are about what we enjoy, what brings us joy. Going to the grocery store brings James joy, so he and Lee go every Saturday morning. Going to theater rehearsal brings David joy, so that’s what he does on Saturdays. Watching football brings me joy, so that’s what I do as many Saturdays as I can. And when it isn’t football season, I spend extra time on the porch with a book or take James for his other favorite activity: going to the pool. Grilling brings Lee joy, so he often has his smoker or grill going on Saturdays. (As a sidenote, next week’s episode is about our new meal plan routine, and I’ll share how I take advantage of Lee’s grilling on Saturdays so we have meat throughout the next week.) Having people over on Saturdays also brings us a lot of joy, so some Saturdays are about preparing the house for friends, but it’s more fun when you get to spend time with friends at the end of the cleaning day.
That leaves Sunday for worship. Even though it’s technically a workday for Lee, it’s still a day to focus on corporate worship and time with our church family. It’s an anchor to our week and a reminder God’s presence with us. I know that your Sunday may look different from our Sunday or even how you want it to look as we’re still in this pandemic season with the limitations it brings, even to our Sundays. But there are lots of ways to worship on Sundays even if you’re unable to attend a corporate worship service right now. You can watch online, you can have a family Bible study, and you can listen to a playlist of your favorite worship songs. The afternoon on Sundays may include more rest and more things we enjoy, but because we started our day with what’s most important, worship, it’s easier to hold onto the presences and provision of God no matter what else we’re doing.
So that’s our weekend-long Sabbath rhythm: rest, enjoy, worship. It feels easy. And if something comes up, like I travel on a weekend or someone is sick, it doesn’t feel like an interruption to a strict routine. We just adapt and move on. I don’t feel guilty when we clean to prepare for friends coming over. I don’t think I “should” be sleeping in and resent when James wakes up early because he loves his grocery store trip so much. I remember what’s most important is that I abide in Christ, and that God will use everything, even our version of the Sabbath, to make us more like His Son.
Let’s pray as we end our time together:
God, You modeled for us a pattern of work and rest when you created our world by resting on the 7th day. And we are so thankful for the invitations to rest that we see throughout Scripture. But as abiding caregivers who can’t always rest as we wish we could, we are thankful for the freedom found in remembering that keeping the Sabbath is about the rhythm and not the rules. Jesus offers rest every day, not just once a week. As my friends listening today think about this in their own lives and for their families, guide them in finding ways to add rest, enjoyment, and worship to their routines. Remind them that the Sabbath shouldn’t feel burdensome but bring freedom. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Thank you for spending time with me today, friends! We’ll be talking about this more in our Facebook group this week. You can search for #AbidingCaregiver – Self-Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver in FB groups or find the link in the show notes at sandrapeoples.com/thepodcast
I’m praying for you, that you will find rest, enjoyment, and the opportunity to worship as you care for your family this week. And I’ll meet you back here next Monday to talk about the changes I’ve made to our meal planning routine and how those changes have made our Sabbath rhythm work for us!