Making it to Monday: The Unexpected Sabbath
I grew up in church. “Keep Holy the Sabbath Day” was a familiar commandment. The family of my youth spent many Sunday afternoons hiking in the mountains, picnicking along rivers and splashing in East Tennessee Lakes. Looking back, I realize that my family was celebrating Sabbath in a very real way. As a young adult, I spent most weekends working in church. My Sabbath was spent in the pews and doing the hands-on ministry work of the church. It was Sabbath, Holy in the truest sense, but perhaps not the most restful one. As a parent, weekends are full of sports games and music lessons. We spend Sunday afternoons doing yardwork and bike riding, sometimes hitting the library. It didn’t seem set apart to me, Sunday was just another day of the week, except church took the place of school.
Our street is overflowing with children. Each afternoon the sounds of playing and sword fighting and swinging and bike riding and sibling banter can be heard echoing off the houses on our street. The parents stand in the road to slow the cars while the children cross without a thought to their safety. The dogs romp, the children play and the adults socialize. It is a most idyllic way to raise children. In the summertime, the children come in when the street lights come on, in the winter the bounce from house to house in herds. In the rain, they bring over their Lego sets and set them up in someone’s garage and spend the day building and destroying and building again. When it’s hot they gather sprinklers and water guns and have “campouts” in the front yards after dark. On Saturday mornings, the doorbell starts bright and early and the day begins anew. The children look forward to a whole day of adventure. Even as I write that it sounds silly, like the Wonder Years or a scene from the Sandlot. But it’s happening. How does this relate to Sabbath you ask? You’ll see.
A few weeks ago, on a Sunday, I got a text from my neighbor.
Her: She just doesn’t get it, I’m sorry.
Me: For what?
Her: You’ll see.
A moment later the doorbell rings.
Shannon (8) answers it and says, “I’m sorry I can’t play on Sundays.”
I was confused. It wasn’t a rule in our house. We had never explicitly said: “The Lehman children are homebound on Sunday.” But I thought back to all the weekends of the past year and it occurs to me that it was true. Some Sundays we went to church, came home and watched afternoon baseball. Some Sundays we didn’t go to church but instead had pancakes, drank coffee and played games together. Unbeknown to me we, had been practicing Sabbath.
That same Sunday, right after lunch Millie (3) asked when we start Spa day. The Spa day tradition was started many years ago when Shannon was small. It was a sneaky way of getting my hands on her thick matted hair for a good scrubbing once a week. Over the years it has turned into an afternoon of bubble baths, bathroom karaoke, pedicures, and hair curlers. The boys would often curl up on the couch with the latest super hero movie. Certainly, it wasn’t set in stone, it happened when it happened. Apparently though, it happened often enough that even our 3-year old recognizes the need for it!
Our Sabbath was unintended, as so many of the best things are. Sabbath leaves us room for unscheduled uninterrupted togetherness. It gives us time to fall into a tickle fight, or have a movie marathon. Our Sabbath gives us freedom to cook together, spend hours at the library or bookstore. Our Sabbath brings us together to rest in the comfort of home and each other. Our Sunday Sabbath has had another unintended effect. It set us apart. It made a statement to the neighborhood that Sundays were different.
I work hard to be intentional with and about our family. Often the unintentional impacts on our life are not so kind, good, Holy. But occasionally we are surprised and the unintentional practices we hold dear turn out to be some of the most important.