There is nothing more satisfying than putting a checkmark next to an item on my to-do list. As nerdy as it sounds, it’s a thrill.
I often feel this thrill at work when I get to create something new to improve the lives of others. During these moments of deep productivity, I am reminded of the great sculpture of Atlas. I imagine myself as the all-powerful human who bears the weight of the world on my shoulders. Sure, the sheer weight of the world can be daunting, but each checkmark on my to-do list is a small moment that proves that I am somehow able to hold it all. I’m telling you — it is a thrill.
This constant need to be productive is why the idea of resting on Sundays feels foreign to me. With everything out there waiting to be accomplished, why give an ENTIRE day dedicated to rest? There is so much to do — who has time or privilege to rest? Sounds like a waste of time.
Like many of the mysteries in the spiritual life, our vocabulary shapes our imagination. If you are like me, the word “rest” equates to laziness. Therefore, the very idea of resting comes with a side dish of shame. Who has time to be lazy? Not me. I have the whole world on my shoulders, remember?
So how and why should we rediscover the practice of observing Sundays (or Sabbath, as many of us might have heard it referred to in the past)? Here are three new ways to actively discover this often forgotten spiritual practice.
Remembering is different from recalling. To “re-member” is to put back together a memory that has a direct impact on the way you live your present life. What does a spiritual practice of sabbath call us to remember? I am not what I do; I am not what I have; I am not what people say about me.
The truth of my deepest identity is greater than my compulsion to prove my worth. The practice of resting on Sundays challenges me to pause and make room for other realities, to raise my eyes up from what I’m working on in the here-and-now and gaze on the horizon to see what is lasting. The work will be there on Monday — stepping aside from it for a day and resting on Sundays reorients me to my ultimate destination.
Sundays then become an opportunity to remember what my name sounds like when God speaks it — resting becomes a prayer that points me toward my truest identity.
There is a half-truth that the world of productivity can narrate for us: We can do everything on our own. Yet, if we pause for just a moment and pay attention to the simplicity of our breath, for example, we recognize our need for air. Our experience of lunch-time hunger indicates our need for nourishment. There are many things we depend upon for our survival.
Resting on Sundays direct our attention to a fuller truth: We are incomplete unto ourselves. We are in constant need of wholeness. Setting aside Sundays makes room for those things that we depend upon for our survival in an existential sense: relationship, purpose, joy.
We are awakened to our dependence by our need to be known, loved, and nourished. It takes courage to admit that this truth is active within us — that we need help to become who we were created to be. Taking time on Sundays to accept the truth of our dependence on God and others makes us more human.
When I get caught up in the excitement of carrying the world on my shoulders, I can convince myself that I’m carrying it all with my own strength. If this perception goes on for too long, everything becomes a burden. It’s inevitable that I get tired, and then resentful.
Gratitude shifts this narrow outlook and reminds me of what I’ve received. By observing Sunday we can recognize that our very work and lives are gifts worthy of thanks. That gratitude roots me in a greater perspective: Everything is grace; everything is a gift.
Resting on Sundays reminds us that nothing — not even the most ordinary or mundane aspect of our lives — is to be taken for granted. That thankfulness shifts our work-a-day question from “What more can I do?” to a more generous inquiry: “How open am I to receive what has been generously given?”
So, think about observing Sunday in order to ground yourself in remembering, connecting, and gratitude. After all, it’s just one day — you can pick up where you left off on Monday. Before the next week rolls around, I invite you into this spiritual practice of resting on Sundays by putting your to-do list down for a while. There is nothing like picking up that list having been reminded of the truth of who you are and what really matters.
As frightening as it may sound, it’s a thrill.