Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Most Fridays scream at me that I don't measure up. The sink is filled with dirty dishes and the counters cluttered from meal preparations, laundry is running in the drier, and baskets are still full and overflowing with cleaned laundry crying to be put away, and don't even look in (not to mention try to navigate through) the play room. As I think about preparing myself to "rest" on Shabbat, I picture the perfect Norman Rockwell family dinner: everyone shiny faced and dressed in fresh pressed Shabbat best, and the table perfectly laid out. While that is a nice goal, this shouldn't be the focus. So how do we manage to rest when life isn't picture perfect? In our home, we sanctify the time each week, focus on the blessing of unity together and with our creator, and prepare our hearts with worship and thanksgiving even if our homes are not quite ready.
Yeshua clearly taught Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). And while the Sabbath is the most mentioned Holy Day in Scripture, and the most highly esteemed, the point is not to look perfect and be stressed out doing so, but to stop in the middle of life to set that time apart to be together with family and to rest with God as He rested thousands of years ago from HIS "toil" of creation. He sat back and enjoyed the work of His week in sweet fellowship. He set aside that last day of the week to stop. I'm sure He could have added MILLIONS of creative species to our world, but he chose to stop, and set an example to us to rest. We were created in His image. It also means that we should live in his likeness, and that includes the principle of rest. We set alarms for things that are important to us-- we get up at a certain time to go to work, to do sport, to watch a show or go the movies or out with friends. We know when we have to pick up our kids or drop them off. We know how to set our calendar, but do we know how to set aside a day for rest with our families and with God?
Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Texas has some great teachings on the Shabbat Principle. He talks often how he wanted to meet with another pastor on a given day, and the pastor responded that he scheduled "nothing" for that day. Not that nothing was scheduled to do, but that he was scheduled to do nothing. In Israel, it's fairly easy to sanctify Shabbat. Very few businesses are open and even more rarely are we required to work a job. But outside of Israel it is not always easy. Whether a conflict with work, or school or sporting events. And while we encourage you to consider setting aside Friday evening to Saturday evening as a special time, perhaps you can't. So what do you do them. We strongly adhere to the Shabbat rest Principle. Again. It's not about THE DAY. It's about THE TIME. God's longs for relationship with us, and for us to be in relationship with each other. Every day my heart aches for the families who slowly drift apart and one day find themselves separated irreconcilably. This is not a judgement on anyone's unique circumstances, but I will guarantee that time with God is never poorly spent.
Blessing of Togetherness
With COVID19, our Shabbats have become "less together" than they used to be. It something that we are still working on navigating. But something I love about family and Biblical traditions is that it draws us together naturally. We regularly prioritize the dinner meal as a time for us to sit together daily as a family and share a meal. On Fridays, we make an effort to extend our table and open our door to invite others to join our family meal as extended family. When we are blessed to be visiting with our blood family this is even sweeter a time. But as we live overseas away from relatives, we have found great joy in invited those who are family in faith to celebrate the Shabbat Rest together with us. We try to have guests at least every other weekend for 2 reasons. First, to show our children that our family is beyond blood, and we want to teach them to host as they grow up. And Secondly, so that we can share with others the joy we find in the Shabbat.
Typically, while living in Israel, we attend worship services on Saturday mornings, and while we have yet to go in person Since the Pandemic, we still set the morning aside to "attend" church online. Once daddy gets home from serving, we try to do something together as a family and close out Shabbat with "Havdallah" and for us, a movie night. (We don't do a lot of screen time, so this is something the kids look forward to.). You can read our article on Havdallah Here. Just this week, we decided to be spontaneous and have a family worship set to close out the Shabbat. It was an amazing time of joy and unity and worship after a particularly challenging day of bad attitudes and conflict (yes we have bad days on Shabbat too). We rolled from one song to the next with such a sweet peace and even our 9 month old kept rhythm with a rattle! And hour later we realized it was well past bedtime and we thought we would skip the traditional blessings to close out shabbat in lieu of our worship set. But when the kids realized that we didn't plan to do the traditional blessings, they let out such a protest that we lit the candles and recited the blessings and passed around the juice and spices just for them! (and then hustled off to sleep;-)) It is really something they love and has become a routine that they look forward to.
Preparing our Hearts
Don't get me wrong. I do try to create an environment of peace and cleanliness to optimize rest on our shabbats. But I won't ever let my environment steal my ability to set that time aside or seek fellowship with God and Family. There have been Fridays where we were racing the sunset to get a job around the house done, only to finish at dusk, sweaty and tired, ready to collapse. Or after a long week of hosting and being on the go, and my kitchen is backed up without a square inch of surface space left and maybe all that we have to eat is leftovers, and you know what, that it just fine. Or there have been weeks of great grief and sorrow, when I don't feel like doing anything let alone celebrating. But should any of those things stop me from getting with the ones I love, from worshipping the one who LOVES me?
Where is my heart? Can I still find joy and peace in the God of my salvation when grief and chaos is around me? Can I still praise Him in the storm of life? In the midst of the change of plans? I've learned to sit with my back to the mess and to look into the faces of my family and smile, because shabbat is a sacred moment. God sanctified it from the beginning. So I will follow HIS example and sanctify it in my heart and in my home today.
Yeshua talked about if anyone had an animal that fell in the ditch on a Shabbat would he not help pull the ox or donkey out of the ditch (even if it did take work to do so)? Of course! Mercy is ALWAYS a blessing in rest. There may arise a time when you MUST push through. But ultimately, you are accountable for your motives of the heart. Are you marginalizing your time as a "buffer" in case i don't finish I can do it then? or is it an unavoidable emergency? In ministry we have found that there are a few "ox in the ditch" shabbats through the year where one of us or our whole family is called on to serve and "work" through a shabbat either for worship events or conferences or such. On these times we set our hearts and minds to serve as a "priest" served as a intercessor of worship at the temple. They were called on for a season and then released to go home for a season. We try as a family to set aside a day during the week following to do nothing and have a midweek "Shabbat". We have a saying though, that if these events happened too frequently, and the ox finds itself in the ditch too often, it's time to make hamburgers and get a new cow!
Prayer of Focus
Abba, Father, thank you for the opportunity to spend time with you and with my family and with friends. As we welcome in Shabbat and Light the candles, I pray that you would be the light in my heart, and help me to share your light of hope to those around me especially my family. Forgive me for the times this week when I failed to bring your light and love to my family, to my (husband, children, friends). Thank you that your mercies are new every morning, and your love never fails. Help me to rest like you rested.
In Yeshua's name, AMEN