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Rediscovering the Sabbath

Do you observe the Sabbath? One day out of seven, do you step away from daily tasks and activities to reflect? To make sense of life? To find meaning and purpose? To go to a house of worship?

When I was a single parent and breadwinner for my family and working at a job requiring an hour-plus commute daily, I couldn’t rest on Sunday. At best, I could carve out a few hours in the afternoon to play with my sons—maybe roller-skate in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or hike in the hills above Berkeley.

But even if I took this time, I still had to squeeze in whatever remained from Saturday’s chores. Maybe I’d need to finish the ironing and put clean clothes away or prepare and freeze dinners for weekdays because I got home too late at night to cook. Or maybe I’d need to wash windows or clean the refrigerator or wash the car.

Since the list of tasks was endless, I couldn’t bring myself to rest—the tasks called my name and insisted on getting needed attention.

Technology Has Sped Up Life

My children are grown, and although I still work, I don’t have a regular job. But even with total control over my schedule, taking a day of rest remains difficult. Consequently, I can only imagine how hard it is for younger generations to keep up in an increasingly fast-paced world where cell phones and other technology are ubiquitous.

The demands and attractions of the real and electronic worlds make it challenging to commit to rest and recovery for one day each week, independent of whether one has a religious obligation to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Technology has increased the pace of almost everything. And as the use of technology has increased, participation in churches and synagogues has declined. I don’t know whether the two events are related, but I understand that for many people, including me, taking one day a week for rest is a rare practice.

The Pendulum May Be Swinging Back

Workaholism and the inability to rest have downsides. For many, the minuses show up in the form of depression, anxiety, decreased physical fitness, weight gain, sleep disorders, cardiovascular problems, and alcohol abuse.

  1. Dana Trent is on a self-appointed mission to restore the Sabbath. In her book For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community, Trent describes her compulsive workaholism and the price she paid. With humor and personal insights, she leads her Christian readers into a new awareness of the importance of observing the Sabbath.

Another author, A. J. Swoboda, in his book Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, speaks to the importance of rest from the Jewish and Christian perspectives. He argues that the Sabbath is the culmination of the week’s work and promotes the counterculture idea that a day of rest is a lavish gift from our Creator.

Barbara Baker Speedling studied the impact of observing the Sabbath on ten nonreligious women who did not observe the Sabbath before the study. After the research, the women reported the following results:

  • Enhanced self-awareness
  • Improved self-care
  • Enriched relationships
  • Spirituality development
  • Positive affects during the rest of the week

Granted, this is a small study. Still, all ten women reported benefits. Speedling concluded that observing the Sabbath could be separated from religious observance and be promoted as a holistic practice that could improve the health of those who regularly engaged in it.

Sunday Is Family Day in France

When I first moved to France, I found it annoying that retailers, especially supermarkets, were closed on Sundays. One or two big grocery chains might open for a few hours in the morning, but most other retail businesses were closed the entire day.

Must be Sunday

The longer I’ve lived here, the more I approve of the Sunday closures and the common practice of using Sundays to rest and visit with family. Of course, no family gathering would be complete without eating together. More often than not, time with family on Sunday revolves around a lovely meal followed by a group walk.

Although French people, like many others around the globe, have had their lives sped up by technology, they stubbornly refuse to give up their Sundays. Now I appreciate the stubbornness that I once found inconvenient.

Global Day of Unplugging Was March 1, 2024

The first National Day of Unplugging was observed in 2003 in response to the observation of Jewish religious leaders that life was passing us by while we were plugged into our electronic devices. Could we bring ourselves to unplug for one day? One single day? Would the world collapse? Unlikely.

Could you unplug for a day?

Consequently, they instructed participants to “Take this day to carve out precious time to unplug, relax, reflect, be active, visit the outdoors, and connect with loved ones.” This guidance sounds a lot like how to observe the Sabbath.

In 2009, the national movement became an international one. Unfortunately, by the time you read this, the Global Day of Unplugging will have passed.

But it’s not too late. You can create your personal day of unplugging next Sunday. If you try it, let me know what happens.



All photos courtesy of Canva