Remember the Sabbath

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. -Exodus 20:8

Dear friends,

During my freshman year of college, I read an interview with then-retired PC(USA) pastor Eugene Peterson where he talked about his practice of Sabbath.

To this day I still remember the rule he and his wife used. He said, “We could do anything, but nothing that was necessary.” If it had to get done, it could wait.

After I read Peterson’s interview, I decided to start taking a Sabbath. I had friends who didn’t think you could get all that homework done in 6 days instead of 7, but it turns out when I knew Saturday was booked, my brain got it done.

I borrowed other ideas about Sabbath from other sources, like “I am a human being, not a human doing,” and “building a wall around the Sabbath.”

Since fall 2009, I have intentionally kept Sabbath every week, with very few exceptions – generally less than once or twice a year, and they often leave me exhausted and haggard by the end of the week if I don’t squeeze in that Sabbath somewhere else.

I kept Sabbath even when I began deconstructing my faith and was unsure whether I even believed in God, because Sabbath was giving me life. Later, when I was in the ordination process, the Committee on Preparation for Ministry asked me about my spiritual practices. I sheepishly admitted the only consistent private spiritual practice I had at the time was Sabbath. For reasons I didn’t understand then, they seemed very excited about that.

In the beginning I took Sabbath on Saturdays. I prefer Saturdays, and that’s what scripture teaches, but since I became a pastor and often have unavoidable work like weddings and funerals and meetings on Saturdays, I’ve had to move it.

It’s been more challenging to keep Sabbath as a parent of two littles, especially since Ryan’s preschool dropped down to 4 days and my Fridays just became childcare days, but I still set a firm boundary around doing any (other) postponeable work on Fridays.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason this is the only spiritual practice I’ve held onto this long, besides church attendance, is that I’ve grown to lean so heavily on it. At any rate, I’m grateful for it, and for Eugene Peterson (may light perpetual shine upon him) sharing his practice with me via that interview article. If you’re able to practice Sabbath, I highly recommend it.

Rev. David M. Schell, pastor