In his book Celebration of Disciplines, Richard Foster talks about how fasting as a spiritual discipline is becoming, he feels, a lost art. It’s difficult to know how to begin and end a fast, Foster points out, because most of us haven’t seen the spiritual discipline of fasting modeled. In our country’s history, there were times when the art of fasting was passed down, just like how to make bread or build a barn, but those days are past. Since most of us haven’t grown up knowing someone who actively practices fasting, the discipline of fasting is in danger of becoming extinct.
The more I read and talk with others about Sabbath keeping, the more I feel the same way. Sabbath keeping is intimidating to a lot of us, and often we misunderstand it as archaic and legalistic. Many of us view this practice as something that drains the fun and pleasure out of day, rather than something that fills us with peace and joy.
I understand where this mindset comes from. Growing up, I knew kids who couldn’t engage in any consumerism on Sunday. Never a meal out, never a movie, nary a trip to the grocery if the milk was all gone. While I can understand disengaging from consumerism to engage in the Sabbath, I don’t believe that honoring the Sabbath requires the same choices for everyone.
I like to use two questions as a lens of sorts, as I evaluate what will and will not be a part of my Sabbath keeping. Here they are:
1.) Does this activity help me to renew myself as part of God’s creation, and further a sense of re-creation in me?
If yes, it’s on the list of things I might do on the Sabbath. For me, this includes things like taking a walk, playing with my kids (rather than working around them), and spending time with the Bible or a great book.
2.) Is this activity something freeing for me, or does it represent something that binds me up through the week?
Here is where shopping, money management, and cleaning fall off of the list for me. (Whew!) Sabbath keeping is about emancipation. It is a celebration of freedom in Christ!
There are things that I enjoy greatly but never seem to get to do. One example is scrapbooking. I love the creative process, but somehow never fit it into my week. I am enjoying spending some time on the Sabbath engaging in this hobby.
In order to effectively keep the Sabbath, we have to know how to evaluate our lives so we can reorder them in this way. Perhaps you feel, as I do, that Sabbath keeping is becoming a lost art, and while you’re interested in picking up the practice, you’ve struggled to know how to begin. Start by answering these two questions for yourself, as a way of beginning your personal Sabbath keeping experience.
By the way, I carry these questions around in my head, and frequently revisit them in order to stay on track. I’m curious to know how this approach works for you and your family!