If there’s one thing that youth workers seem to be universally terrible at…
…it’s actually taking a day off every once in a while.
Even though we know the Sabbath is a Commandment.
Even though we know we’re exhausted.
In fact, most of us admit we don’t take a full Sabbath day even once a month.
Worst of all, some of us even boast about how we don’t take time to rest—we’re just too important!
And that’s a problem…
In a profession with the burnout toll of ministry, we owe it to ourselves to follow the fourth Commandment: Sabbath.
So let’s start there. The Sabbath is a real, actual Commandment. We’re not talking about some obscure case law from the deepest part of the Book of Numbers. We’re talking about a Commandment, listed right between keeping the Lord’s name Holy and honoring your parents.
And while I’m not a legalistic Sabbath-keeper (because hey, things happen!), I’m also not a flippant Sabbath-basher. The next time you’re tempted to boast about your busyness or mock someone else because they take time off and you don’t, imagine you’re talking instead about theft or adultery. Your tone will change quickly.
The truth is that Sabbath is a spiritual necessity, and that’s why it’s in the Bible. But it’s also a physiological, mental and emotional necessity; which is why secular scientists are on board with the idea just as much as religious ones.
It’s a miracle. Bill Nye and Ken Ham and atheists and Christians can all agree on this: Human beings need to take time to rest. We all acknowledge that. It’s just that we don’t always do it.
And when we do it, we don’t always do it well.
So as you prepare for your next Sabbath, I’ll share a simple idea with you that I like to keep in mind, to make sure I get the most out of my Sabbath:
It doesn’t count as rest if you’re more tired when it’s finished.
That idea guides my Sabbath. There are differences between “not working” and “actively rested.” That’s why it’s so important to be so intentional about how we’re resting and restoring ourselves for another week of work and ministry.
HERE’S HOW I SPEND MY DAY OFF
Get (a little) extra sleep.
On my day off, I’ll sleep in if my kids will let me, or I’ll take a nap later in the day. I’ve found personally that if I get more than an hour of extra sleep, I feel groggy the rest of the day, so I try to limit that extra sleep to an hour.
Light exercise and fresh air.
I’m a big-time cyclist, but my Sabbath is scheduled as a “rest day.” That doesn’t mean I’m just laying around on the couch though. I enjoy and am renewed by exercise and fresh air. So while I’m not doing hill repeats until I puke, I’ll go for an easy ride with my kids or a walk in the woods.
Eat well and eat healthy.
The worst thing I can do is eat fast food or greasy food or too much food. I feel groggy and wake up the next morning not feeling as well as I usually do. I prefer sushi, salads and fresh fruit because I like those things better and because they make me like me better.
Quiet time with God.
I focus on prayer and Scripture. As a youth minister, I find it difficult to read any kind of spiritual book (other than the Bible) without analyzing it or feeling like I’m working. And when I’m on Sabbath, I’ve found it’s important to avoid work and things that feel like work.
I spend a lot of time working at a computer, and even though I may not be working at the computer on my day off, it still feels like work. Besides the insatiable pull of email, social media and my to-do list, it’s just more restful not to be sitting at a desk on a desk chair in front of my computer.
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY OFF
I understand how difficult it is to build a habit of Sabbath. I understand how difficult it is to maintain that habit and to make the tough decisions to protect it. If you are not currently taking a regular, healthy Sabbath, start right here:
Pick ONE DAY in the next month to be your Sabbath.
You’ll probably have other “days off” in your calendar, but target just one to be your real, actual Sabbath. Make sure your date doesn’t fall immediately before a huge event. It’s nearly impossible to Sabbath your brain ahead of a high-stress event.
Make at least ONE POSITIVE APPOINTMENT on that date.
Schedule a haircut or make plans to have a nice lunch with a friend followed by a hike. Decide what movie you’ll see. Tell your kids NOW that that’s going to be your Zoo Day. You’ll be less likely to cheat if you’ve already got plans.
That’s it for today.
That’s how easy it is to begin to build a healthy habit of Sabbath. When you’ve done those things, leave a comment below to share what you’re doing and when.