Building Sabbath Rhythms

Written on 02/27/2024
Jeff Hawker

What a day of rest looks like for a working family with young kids

Written by Jeff Hawker

In recent years I’ve been seeing a resurgence in teaching and practising about the Sabbath in some Christian circles after some decades of less attention. I’m grateful to the lead pastor of my church for teaching about the Sabbath over a decade ago. Let me tell you about how my wife and I have been practising and enjoying this weekly 24-hour period of rest, delight, and worship.

It was relatively easy to keep the Sabbath in our early years of marriage, except for when I was a grad student and was tempted to cram in more studying.

When it was just the two of us, we had more freedom to organize our weeks to include the regular rhythm of Sabbath. This became more challenging after our children were born.

Caring for children is a lot of work, and that work does not easily stop on the Sabbath. When they were babies, it required the physical exertion of feeding, burping, changing diapers, bathing, holding, and consoling. Now that our kids are older, our physical exertion has been replaced with the emotional exertion of dealing with quarrelling, whining, and developmental struggles.

However, with trial and error we have been able to integrate rhythms that hold a space of peace and joy, even if interspersed with moments of applying Band-Aids or intervening in sibling rivalries.

One of our rhythms is delighting in good food together. We begin the day with a delicious, unhurried breakfast. We gather at the table, light a candle as a reminder of Christ’s presence, hold hands, and sing the Doxology (“Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”). Then as we eat together, we hear from each other about what we hope for this day. We write down everyone’s ideas and come up with a rough plan.

Our day almost always involves some time outside exploring the beauty of God’s creation—whether in the forest, at the beach, or at a park. We often do something creative together like baking, painting, or playing music. There is always some time spent in silence and solitude, giving everyone some free time before gathering again in the late afternoon.

Our family normally avoids sugar, but we often include juice, treats, or even a spoonful of honey as part of our Sabbath. Recently, I have begun giving my kids and my wife each a blessing—holding them and speaking words of life over them. Occasionally, we also enjoy time with friends on the Sabbath, but we try to not fill the day with too many plans. Spaciousness and a slower pace are crucial parts of Sabbath rest.

In this full season of life, when both my wife and I work full-time while raising school-aged children, the majority of the week is bustling with activity. I honestly can’t imagine trying to get by without Sabbath, especially in stressful seasons. Sabbath is a lifeline. It is like a little taste of eternity in this life. It is a day that gives meaning and energy to all the other days of the week. It reminds us that we are human beings, not human doings. We are beloved children of God, not production machines.

Sabbath has not been without challenges. I have sometimes felt compelled to run errands on the Sabbath. I think to myself, “What’s wrong with getting an oil change on the Sabbath, or sorting through the heaping piles of art the kids brought home from school?” Yet these activities can have a bigger impact on me and those around me than I initially realize. If I’m getting things done, then I’m not resting and delighting. My wife and kids pick up on this when it happens, and it can derail the whole day. When one family member fails to keep the Sabbath, we all tend to be more on the edge for the rest of the week.

When I surrender to God’s intentions for the Sabbath and let go of my endless striving, I find that my heart grows in gratitude for the generous gift of life that God has given out of His abundant riches. Instead of being in a rush, I can give meaningful attentiveness to the simple joys of life. By keeping the Sabbath, I am primed to see God’s goodness throughout the week, even in places I wouldn’t expect.

Jeff Hawker and his family reside in Vancouver, BC, where he serves as the pastor of spiritual formation at Tenth Church, helping people experience the life-changing love of God.