Boundaries and Balance, Part 2: Sabbath Margins



I don’t do this often enough–take an afternoon through the week to pause my work button and enjoy a baseball game on a beautiful summer afternoon.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” –Jesus, as quoted in Mark 2:27 NIV

What image comes to mind when you hear the word “Sabbath”?

A day of rest and relaxation? A day to restore spent batteries? A day to finally schedule those fun activities you don’t have time for the rest of the week? A day to worship God? A nice, long, delicious Sunday afternoon nap? Parking it before the television to watch the game? Or a day to catch up with all the work you couldn’t fit into Monday through Saturday?

For me, Sabbath meant a day of rest, and that, traditionally, was Sunday. And only Sunday.

So when I read Priscilla Shirer’s view of Sabbath in her Bible study Breathe, her words stopped me in my Sabbath tracks: “God always and eternally intended Sabbath to be a lifestyle—an attitude, a perspective, an orientation for living that enables us to govern our lives and steer clear of bondage.” (emphasis mine)

What bondage? I live in a free country. That makes me free, right?

Wrong. There are many things that can enslave me.

Like to-do lists. I cram too many “must-do” items in my daily schedule then feel like a big, fat failure when I don’t accomplish everything on the list.

“How can I get everything done on my to-do list?” I once lamented.

“Put less on your list,” someone answered.

I wish I would’ve heeded that advice when it was given to me. Instead I developed a daily and weekly schedule using an Excel spreadsheet. To which I am a slave.

Oh, I get such pleasure in crossing items off! So much so that I’ll remember something that needs done that isn’t on the list, do it, then add it to the list so I can cross it off. That’s pretty pathetic.

We become dependent on that to which we are addicted. I depended on crossing off items on the list to make me feel good about myself, to feel productive, perhaps to give my life meaning. But all I was doing was spinning my wheels and burning myself out. No wonder I felt overwhelmed, plumbed out, ready to quit the ministries to which God called me.

I needed rest, but, more important, I needed to examine my unrealistic lists and schedules and determine, prayerfully, what to cut and what to keep.

And I needed to set what Priscilla calls Sabbath margins around what remained—establish boundaries so I can have time for Shabbat. Boundaries, remember, aren’t burdens, but gifts.

Shabbat comes from a Hebrew word that means to cease, to stop, to rest—verbs that require decisive action.

A day on the Glendale Lake with our daughter, her boys, and our youngest son was just the Shabbat I needed at the end of July.

God created Sabbath on the seventh day to give the rest of what He created balance. A life without Sabbath, without rest, is out of balance. Sabbath is not an option but an integral part of life. A lifestyle, not a day.

I’m still wrapping my mind around Sabbath being a lifestyle.

As I examine my schedule and place margins around those activities I choose to keep, I’m beginning to understand that Sabbath is not just Sunday but every day of the week.

Where do you need to put Sabbath margins?

Father, I pray for guidance, wisdom, and discernment as I continue to follow Your lead of establishing Sabbath margins in my life so that nothing holds me captive but You. Amen.

Day trips are one our favorite ways to spend the Sabbath–guaranteed to keep me away from those vicious to-do lists. Dean and I took a day trip last Sunday afternoon to the Sherman Lighthouse in Tionesta, Pa.
Oh, we have so much fun taking selfies!

NOTE: Next week, we’ll continue the series “Boundaries and Balance” by examining other-people boundaries.

Read and meditate on Genesis 2:1–3; Exodus 20:8–11

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

My Day of Rest


He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. – Psalm 23:2-3 (NIV)

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” – Exodus 20:8

It’s funny how songs from childhood stay with us throughout life. I remember my mother singing along with the songs that blasted from the radio that sat atop the refrigerator as she went about her housework. Singing made the work seem easier, the time go by faster, and lightened the load of responsibility, care, and worry.

I especially remember one song that even I liked to sing: “Oh, you can kiss me on a Monday, a Monday, a Monday is very, very good. Or you can kiss me on a Tuesday, a Tuesday, a Tuesday, in fact, I wish you would. Or you can kiss me on a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday, a Saturday is best, but never, ever on a Sunday, a Sunday, a Sunday, ’cause that’s my day of rest” (“My Day of Rest”).

Sixty years later I still find myself quietly singing the lyrics, especially when Sunday has become anything but a day of rest. When I was a child, Sundays meant reading the comics (we called them the “funnies”), going to church, having a sit-down dinner of roast beef with the entire family, and relaxing the rest of the day.

I remember when I first became aware of the increased pace of life on Sundays. We live in the country, and for years we attended a small country church near our home and rarely had a reason to come to town on a Sunday. One Sunday we came to town to bring my daughter’s friend, who’d spent the weekend with us, home. Town was as busy – even busier, I thought – than a weekday. Cars were buzzing down the main street, blocking intersections, and jumping red lights, all in a hurry to get where they were going. Parking lots were full.

“Whatever happened to Sunday being a day of rest?” I wondered.

Modern technology has given us devices that save time and labor, but what do we do with the time we save? Cram more activities into already over-crowded schedules. Stress has become a major health issue.

After putting in a 40-plus-hour work week, it’s tempting to use Sunday as an extra Saturday. I find I’m living my life like I drive: hurried, tail-gating slow pokes, jumping red lights, slowing down, and cruising through stop signs. I have to remind myself that “stop” means exactly that. It doesn’t mean “merge” or “yield.”

And that’s what Sabbath literally means. Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to stop or to rest from work.” God Himself set the example: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2–3).

Holy in this case means “set apart for special use.” No other day was blessed, only Sunday. No other day was set apart, only Sunday. Sunday was not meant to be a burden, but a time of laying aside the burdens and focusing on rest and worship. Remember what Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Sunday is a gift – a gift of time. Time for restoration, time for re-energizing rundown, worn-out bodies and spirits, time to focus on all that God is and does, and worship Him. And true worship, like singing, will make work the rest of the week seem easier and the burdens we carry lighter.

Help me, Lord, to put away the ever-present do-list on Sunday and take that nap, because I know I will feel better the rest of the week. Amen.

Read and meditate on Exodus 20:8–11; Psalm 119:49–64

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.