I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. As a mom I hold, manage and juggle a lot of plates. And life in New York City is fast and furious. As a matter of fact, living anywhere today can be pretty busy. At my church, New Life Fellowship, we encourage families to regularly observe and keep the Sabbath with kids. But not in a way that is legalistic and condemning. We tend to take the point of view that we don’t have to keep Sabbath, we GET to keep the Sabbath.
Sabbath as Invitation
When we read the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy,” we often think itmeans it is supposed to be kept either in church or thinking about church. We think we need to be praying all day or praying for most of it. For many of us, keeping Sabbath means that we are in this sort of mellow, soothing state where everything we think about and do is supposed to be “holy like.” Whatever that means.
Sabbath as a Spiritual Formation Practice
At New Life Fellowship, we talk about Sabbath as being a part of a regular rhythm that nurtures our spiritual formation. It is a day to take all of our striving, performing, producing, and seemingly productive tasks and surrender them to the Lord. We do this as a reminder for us that He holds ALL THINGS together. We also do this as a sign to the world that IN HIM all things are held together.
As families with young children, boy do we need this weekly practice and reminder! But how do we practice the Sabbath with kids? How do we introduce rhythms in our and our kids lives to help us know our Heavenly Father? Our kids are so young and needy, what could a Sabbath look like for us? What are some things we can do to not only practice Sabbath for ourselves but, teach our kids to do Sabbath too?
Richard and I have been practicing Sabbath for about 10 years. Only 1 of those years were done without children. So, we have 9 years of Sabbath with young children under our belt. Here are 4 things we’ve learned to keep in mind when practicing Sabbath with kids.
4 TIPS ON KEEPING SABBATH WITH KIDS
1.Pick A Day and Stick with It
I read an article where research showed that it actually takes more that 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. Knowing this puts into perspective the need to choose 1 day out of the week in which you will observe Sabbath. Sticking with this day will help you and your family form a new habit.
Find a day where you and your family are typically together for the majority of the day (preferably a 24-hour period.) This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to spend all the 24 hours together (unless you want to.) You just want to find a time period when everyone in your family can prepare to be in “Sabbath Mode.”
Find that day and stick with it. Protect that time fiercely. It is a time for the spiritual formation practice of Sabbath.
How We Do Sabbath
Till this day my family’s Sabbath begins at 6pm on Friday evenings and ends on 6pm Saturday evening. We rarely plan work or church events/classes during that time. We do have work/church related events planned from time to time. But we have practiced Sabbath enough times that we intuitively avoid planning church/work events or classes on Saturdays.
2.Light A Candle
This practice of lighting a candle seems really small and kind of insignificant. But what my husband and I have learned is that this is a practice that in a very fascinating way, helps our Sabbath “feel” more like a Sabbath.
We don’t always do this but when we do it becomes a game changer in how we experience our Sabbath. Lighting a candle is a very real visual cue for us as well as our children that this is a special time. This time is different than the rest of our week.
Lighting a candle is also a visual reminder for my husband and I of the presence of the Lord that is always with us but that we forget about in the everyday. Every time we pass the candle on the dining room table it is a simple visual cue for us to remember that God is with us NOW through his Holy Spirit.
This also becomes a fantastic teaching cue for us with our kids. We get to talk about the Holy Spirit. We get to talk about how on Sabbath this is a reminder for us to remember to think about God and talk to and to invite God into every part of our day. At the end of Sabbath we get to remind our kids that God is always with us and that it doesn’t end on Sabbath. He is with us every other day of the week too. We just use the rhythm of Sabbath to “Re-remind” us and to re-anchor our week/lives in Christ.
3.Include These Elements of Sabbath
A lot of the ways I’ve learned to practice Sabbath has been from my church, New Life Fellowship. Over the years, we have developed a few simple words to help remind us of what a Sabbath should include. And when I say should, it’s not to say you HAVE TO have all of these elements in order for it to be a “real” Sabbath.
These words are simply a wonderful guide that help me to surrender my day and life to the Lord. It is a rhythm full of reminders and practices that turn me towards God and myself. And this in turn helps me to love others well. These are the words that anchor my time in Sabbath rest.
Stop all the things. Stop working. Stop non-essential chores. Stop striving. Stop pushing. Stop grinding. Stop hustling. Just stop.
Stop doing all the things that position you as the center of your world and position yourself to turn your gaze to Christ. Stop working and striving to prove yourself to others or God, consciously or unconsciously.
When I was a work-from-home mom I would stop doing my work-work as well as stop doing home chores. All of these things, I didn’t realize before, were ways I would strive to prove myself, one way or another. With work, it was proving I could do great things in that arena. At home, it was me proving that I am a good mom and homemaker.
The thing is, is that it’s not just about stopping. It’s about stopping and turning to Christ. It is a declaration that God is God and I am not and that the world will not fall apart and will keep spinning. It is a statement that says, “Even if I never produce another thing, or do another great mom/homemaker thing… I am Loved by God.”
This looks different for everyone. In my household we try to do things that help us rest. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with the STOP element. For us it means taking naps, not doing laundry as we walk past the ever growing dirty clothes pile. It also means we do take out often. I don’t want to cook or do dishes. Mama is off!
Delight is my favorite part! It is doing the thing or things that give you life! It could mean, reading, fishing, watching a movie, sleeping, crafting, crocheting, etc.
When you are a part of a family with small children and/or multiple people in your family the delight part of Sabbath may seem like it could get busy. But there are some nuances that I will get to in just a moment.
As another favorite element of mine, this too can look different for everyone. The essential think in this element of Sabbath is a constant coming back to God. A remembering of his presence. Setting aside some time to meditate on his word. A time to be silent before Him.
For me I like to journal and listen to worship music. Other things my husband and I do are take moments for reading scripture, silence and Centering Prayer.
It is being intentional about inviting God into our mind and space, so to speak. Remembering our source of strength and life. A time to remember Whose we are. That we belong to Christ. And He is our Anchor and our All-in-All.
When reading all of the elements above, keeping Sabbath with kids may sound awesome and impossible all at the same time. Especially if you have small children.
As a family who has practiced Sabbath weekly mostly as a family with small children I can attest that it is possible! It hasn’t always been perfect. But the most important thing I learned was that I needed to be flexible.
I needed to adjust my expectations that my Sabbath wasn’t going to look the same as when we didn’t have kids. I also needed to remember that keeping Sabbath with kids was going to look different as our kids enter and leave the different stages of childhood.
Being flexible is the key to keeping Sabbath with kids. Some Sabbaths might turn out better than others, but it was still a Sabbath. God was honored in it and we took some time to anchor ourselves in our Savior.
When it comes to keeping Sabbath with children taking turns has been pivotal to our enjoyable Sabbath experiences. Having small children means that life is unpredictable and that sometimes the little ones dictate the day. So along with the need to be flexible in keeping Sabbath with kids comes the need to take turns.
My husband and I had decided early on in our Sabbath endeavors to take turns on doing things in the Delight and Contemplate elements. Sometimes we both would get to do our perfect delightful thing in one Sabbath day. And in other times I’d do my special thing on one Sabbath and he’d do his one special thing on another Sabbath day.
The key to this is flexibility. Sometimes all I would get to do on a Sabbath day was to lay around and watch a family friendly movie with my eldest. Other times we’d go out and be tourists for a day in our own city. On some Sabbaths I would get some real quiet time to listen to worship music, read scripture and journal, while my husband would take the kids to the playground.
Richard and I do a lot of compromising and keep a flexible mindset as often as possible.
Sabbath is a gift. Yes, it is a command as well. But to me, it just feels like such a gift. During my week I so look forward to Sabbath. And when Sabbath is done, I look forward to working, creating and mothering out of the abundance and overflow that Sabbath brought.
As we make our Sabbath a time to connect with our Creator through how He created us to be along with reorienting our hearts towards Him and His love, Sabbath keeping with Kids becomes a time of abundance and rejuvenation.
This is a no judgement zone… Do you keep Sabbath? If so, how has it been for you? If not, how does it sound to you? Easy? Difficult?