I wish in my 30’s and 40’s I had listened more intently to the voices urging me to slow down and to care for my soul. I didn’t …. until Joan, my wife, said to me one day, “I need you to honor the Sabbath, and if you don’t, we’ll need to leave the field”.

Joan has never been an “ultimatum” type person, so her words pierced deeply into my soul.

What was going on inside me to make me take her words seriously?

Here’s just one example.

It was a sunny morning in Java, Indonesia, where we lived at the time. Our young kids were out front playing on the veranda when they ran inside to me and asked, “Hey daddy, why is there a taxi idling in front of our house. You’re not going on ANOTHER trip, are you?”

Many of us live the dream 24/7, leading teams, coaching teams, serving on executive leadership councils of our mission agency – at least that was my way of life. It was fulfilling and fun, adventurous, and I felt alive.

But it was also draining. It was taking a toll on my family, relationships, and soul.

Joan could see it, and undoubtedly my teammates could see it. I was about the only one blind to it.

If my soul could speak, it would have told me that I needed rest, and that my soul needed margin. It needed tending. It needed time to grow and ripen. I was exhausted and didn’t want to admit it, until I saw the disappointment on the faces of my children.

“If my soul could speak, it would have told me that I needed rest, and that my soul needed margin. It needed time to grow and ripen.”
So, what about Joan’s urging for me to honor the Sabbath? I started right away, well, when I got back from that trip.

We agreed on a Sabbath plan together: No checking email. No meetings. No trips on Sundays (well, almost…). No “talking about the work” with anyone, not even between us as we were co-team leaders. Sabbath became long walks, picnics, soccer and playgrounds and laughter with the kids, and “times of refreshment before the Lord” (Acts 3:19 – NIV).

Sabbath is a space for me and my soul and those I love.

Twenty years later I’m still honoring the Sabbath. However, the Sabbath, as I’ve come to realize over the years, is no longer just “Sunday.” The Sabbath – made for me – has now worked its way into other nooks and crannies of my day-to-day soul and schedule. It’s teaching me to slow down, to unhurry, to notice, to live in the moment, and to carve out time to reflect.

God’s gift of Sabbath has become far more than what I discovered in Java two decades ago – “just one day of the week.” It has become a journey into a new way of life for me.

I’m not completely there yet. I’m still prone to busyness. But my initial foray into being a Sabbath-honorer provided me the space and the environment to enjoy God, life, and others in the sacred resting.

My life has a more sustainable pace and existence that brings so much joy compared to my previous life of exhaustion. My soul is slowly ripening, and I have the Sabbath to thank.

How about you – any “ultimatums” needed?

“God gave us the Sabbath. Jesus taught us that we weren’t made for the Sabbath but that Sabbath was made for us. Sabbath time is our time, our chance to rest, to worship God, to forgive each other, to taste a wee bit of heaven, and to be more in sympathy with all that is, not least our own lives.” ”
— Ronald Rolheiser