Sabbath: The Sacred Space

Anna had just finished cross-country practice when she opened the passenger side door of my car and sat in the seat next to me.

After a few minutes of chitchat with my oldest daughter, she asked a very direct, yet inquisitive question.

“Dad, why do certain religions have a day when they don’t work or do anything?”

It was a fantastic question. And just the kind of question I love to answer.

I explained to Anna that the Sabbath was a day of rest given to mankind at the very beginning of creation. It was a day in which all work activity was to cease so that people could rest, rejuvenate, and give thanks to God.

I then further explained that Sabbath was central to the very heartbeat of Judaism, as God instructed them through His law to abstain from any activity that constituted work. Sabbath was, not just true for His people, but also the animals and the land. Animals were to be given a day of rest each week and the land a year of rest for every six it is worked.

As I explained Sabbath to Anna, and how important it is to our well being (mentally, physically, spiritually, relationally, and communally), I began to think about my childhood and how every business in our small town stayed closed every single Sunday. And as I thought back to that time it made me so profoundly sad. It was a sad realization that there had been something so simple and so life-giving built into our culture, given for our benefit, rooted in the very foundation of creation, and we lost it… we walked away from it. And there was not even as much as a whimper when we lost it.

Maybe because we lost it so slowly. Maybe because it started as one store and then another and then another. Maybe it happened so subtly that our pace didn’t really change and we really never recognized what was truly being lost. Maybe if we would have lost it suddenly then we would have realized the magnitude of what we were giving up.

It wasn’t just stores and businesses.  It was us.  Individuals.

We were walking away from Sabbath as something that was optional, even a little archaic.

It was insignificant… of little consequence.  If we lost it… well… we wouldn’t be missing anything.

But Sabbath was a fortress wall behind which we could retreat at least once a week to find our breath and maintain our rhythm. Behind the towering walls of Sabbath we found respite, relief, and peace and even regained our sanity because it was the only thing strong and sturdy enough to withstand the unrelenting assault of busyness, 60-hour work weeks, and capitalistic greed.

But here we are now as wayfarers and travelers, with not even as much as a faint memory of where we used to be. Another generation, and the generation after that, has come along after us and has been introduced into a world, and a culture, that does not stop, that does not rest, that does not take time to breathe, and does not understand our desperate need for sacred space.

The pace at which we are moving is increasing without any evidence of slowing down.

The amount of information coming at us at any one moment is doubling and tripling in the wrong direction.

The degree to which we are connected to technology only promises to make us more connected and more connected… not less.

And to be honest… it feels like suffocation or drowning or losing control or all of them at the same time.

But to many, including Anna, I am fearful that this feeling is shockingly normal… because they have not known any other way.

And it is evident.

In our anxiety.

In our stress.

In our mania.

There is no denying that we are paying for it heavily with our minds, bodies, and souls.

And the thing is… the forces keep coming and they continue to increase and they keep taking more and taking more.

It is subtle but incremental… and completely overwhelming.

Matthew Sleeth, in his eye-opening (and highly recommended) book 24/6, writes:

We cannot turn back the hands of time. Our 24/7 world is not going to change. Life will only get more intense. New communication tools, nanotechnology, and human engineering will increase the number of tasks an individual can do simultaneously. We will look back with nostalgia at the 24/7 world once these “advances” make 48/7 a reality. If we wish to have a weekly day of rest, it will no longer happen as a societal default. It will happen only as a result of conscious choice. All we need to begin is to “remember,” as the Fourth Commandment tells us. We must remember the why and the how of a day of rest.

He is right. We cannot depend on our societies, our governments, our businesses to make the right choices or create sacred space for us. Once we abandoned the sacred space of Sabbath, there is nothing left but empty promises that will never give us what we keep hoping to attain- a better life.

The fortress of Sabbath still stands. It is still there. It hasn’t fallen or been destroyed. We just left it. The doors are still open to enter back into a Sabbath’s Day rest… to stop the madness… to stop the cycle… to stop the work… to escape the forces that are overwhelming us and imprisoning us.

The Sabbath doors are open and beckoning us to come back and take a deep breath and spend time with family and play with our kids at the playground and take a walk in the evening while watching the sunset and enjoy a meal with our friends… and discover what we have really wanted all along (but maybe never even known it)- life in it’s fullness.

Sabbath is calling us back.

I am not much on New Year’s resolutions… but Sabbath would be worth pursuing in the new year.

Have a happy new year!


15 thoughts on “Sabbath: The Sacred Space

  1. Loved this, Brandon. Have you read Dan Allender’s book on Sabbath? We’ve attended a wonderful conference based on it and in it I loved contemplating taking a day for delight, not just cessation of work, but real delight and feasting and a foretaste of heaven. Loved your piece, as always.


  2. Beautiful post, Brandon. I keep the Sabbath, usually. It helps me refocus, regroup for the next week. I do cook, but the meals are simple. It always seemed hipocritical for my grandfather, father, uncles to do nothing on the Sabbath but they expected and got an elaborate meal! Bothered my childlike reasoning! God bless. Connie


  3. Brandon, first of all, thank you for checking out my blog! Second, I absolutely loved this post. I agree that you hit the nail on the head. Thank you for getting the message out there. Keeping the Sabbath is a desperate need in today’s times. Reading this made me even more thankful that God recently allowed me to leave grad school – for many reasons, but one of them is because I will be able to have more of a real Sabbath because I won’t get the “Sunday night anxiety” from worrying about school the next day/trying to finish lingering assignments/freaking out mentally. God bless! Keep it up. I look forward to reading more of your posts!


    1. thanks catherine! i really appreciate the note and kind words. this is one thing i have really been talking to my kids about… slowing life’s pace and taking time to breath at least once a week. God knows our tendency is to work and move and remain busy… and thank God that the gift of Sabbath was given to us. thanks for reading and keep writing about the Kingdom! i look forward to it. peace… brandon


  4. This is great. I am sad, too, about the loss of God’s ways in our culture. We are going backward instead of forward! By that I mean that Christians have the Old Testament once-a-week day of rest, which helps us learn the everyday trust-and-obey life of rest (Hebrews 4:1-11). . . . Hey, Brandon, I’m glad you found my blog so I could find your blog. I am looking forward to future post. I have already emailed the link to A Joyful Procession to my brother. You are a hiker after his own heart. And I LOVE your photos.


  5. i love your comments about the Sabbath. Growing up as a preacher’s kid (we were Methodists), I dreaded what I thought was the “Christian Sabbath,” Sunday. I viewed it as a day in which I could not do what I wanted to do–Sunday Blue Laws and all. Later in life, I discovered two very important things about the Sabbath. it’s the 7th day of the week.–part of Creation. So why was I celebrating (or rather dreading) Sunday as the Sabbath instead of Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown? Answer: Constantine and bad theology.

    Jesus never changed the Sabbath. Constantine, who formerly worshipped the sun-god, changed it. Now I celebrate (and never dread) the Sabbath but look forward to it with anticipation. Not only can I rest from my labors, but I enjoy spending time with God. Of course, I spend time with God every day through Bible reading, etc., but I set aside concentrated time with God, which is always rewarding.

    Sometimes i feel like shouting to my Christian friends: “There are 10 Commandents, not 9.” I have no objection to services held on Sunday or any day of the week, but I enjoy celebrating the Sabbath as a “holy convocation” on Friday night. It’s the first of God’s Appointed Times mentioned in Leviticus 23–a date night with the LORD.

    Thank you for visiting my blog, Brandon. I’m enjoying yours.


    1. you nailed it Sheryl! it took me a while to get to that place… but I am glad that I finally got there. thanks for reading and following. I look forward to more of what you have to say! peace… brandon


  6. Thank you for the follow.
    I agree whole heartedly. Even here, (Costa Rica) where life moves at a slower rate and on a smaller scale (and I often praise God that there are NOT so many extra curricular activities), I still have to be intentional about sabbath and am trying to instill in my children the same spirit of sabbath and their own need for it.


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