Sabbath and the Single Parent
I don’t know about you, but for me personally, busyness has become a way of life. If I’m going to give you an honest answer about my busy life, I’m in good conscience going to give you an excuse as to why I can’t help being so busy, and how God is blessing me in the midst of the whirlwind I call life every day.
Recognizing my efforts in ministry are just filthy rags, I’m going to list what occupies my time in order to give us some perspective. I work full time, I’m currently serving as worship leader in my local Church, and I teach Sunday school. During the school year I’m involved with the Youth Group, I write, and in the midst of this, I am a full time mom, which means I cook, clean, do laundry (when I remember to put it in the dryer),take out the trash, mow the lawn, play doctor, counselor and coach, carpool when possible, and I’m a part time babysitter to my niece and nephew. Did I mention I’m a single parent?
I’m not listing my duties as some kind of plea for sympathy—I absolutely love my life. I could not be more blessed to be in the position that God has allowed me to be in. I’m setting this up for one purpose: encouragement.
I’ve written from a single parent perspective before, and as I continue to trek through this crazy journey, I’m learning something by the grace of God that we all need to hear. Amidst everything that is going on in my life, to rest at all falls on the wayside.
How do we find rest? Aren’t we commanded to rest? Yes, but not in the way you might think. This is where breaking down context comes into play.
Exodus 20:8-10 states, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates” (Exodus 20:8-10 CSB).
As I dive deep into this commandment, the legalistic part of my brain kicks in. The first question that arises in my mind when I read is “Lord, I’m in ministry…Am I sinning because I’m technically working on a Sunday?” or “Sundays are the only days I have time for housework or yard work! What is the big deal if I’m going to Church and fulfilling my duties to the Lord?”
This is why contextual study is so important. We have to look at the purpose of this command, and then like everything else in our lives, we have to see how it points to Christ. From there, we can apply it to our lives, and my prayer is that from there you would be able to apply it to your life.
If we are truly seeking Christ in all aspects of our lives then we understand on the surface to take a Sabbath is a command, not a suggestion; let’s break this down a little further.
The commandment of sabat, or “to cease”, was a command given to the Israelites. What God was doing here was giving His people a command using the past (this is the only commandment that begins with the word remember) when God rested in the creation of the world (Genesis 2:2), in the present to establish rest for His people, and for future generations as an expression of the covenant between God and future generations as stated in Exodus 31:13.
This commandment was established under Mosaic Law. As we dive further into what we would call the Old Covenant, we see that the Sabbath includes double sacrifice of animals (Numbers 28:9-10) and a death penalty for not keeping it (Exodus 31:14). I don’t know about you, but all of that seems pretty harsh for a Sunday afternoon.
The truth of the Sabbath, like everything else, is that Jesus fulfilled that law and we are not bound to it. Jesus’ sacrifice gave us freedom under the new covenant, and our rest—our Sabbath—is in Him.
Any free time I have I want to be eating ice cream watching a good crime show. That is a personal example of how busyness can become idolatry. Don’t get me wrong, the action in itself is not sinful, but when it completely replaces my personal time with Christ and spending time with Him is a chore, one more task to check off the list, we aren’t resting correctly. To neglect true rest is to neglect Christ.
How do we enter this rest when it seems we don’t have a moment left in the day? What are some of the consequences of neglecting that rest?
To Rest Is to Turn to Christ
As single parents, we are weary, we are burdened, and we are doing the job of two parents. Jesus offers us a solution in Matthew 11:28. He says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 CSB).
Jesus gives us a promise in this verse: turn to him and he will give you rest. He doesn’t say might; He gives us a promise. Jesus is our promise. Sometimes a simple prayer of “Jesus I need you today” is all we need. We cannot operate in our own strength, and when we do, we set ourselves up to stumble.
When I Neglect Rest, I Stumble
I don’t know about you, but when I have a crazy day at work, all I want to do is go home and cope. We all have our poisons, whether it be food, a few glasses of wine, or escaping in the throws of social media, and our responsible moderation becomes a crutch. The author of Hebrews states it perfectly when he tells us, “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11 CSB). We must be good stewards of our time and of our rest.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
I am an independent person, and many times not only do I disregard Christ’s sufficiency, but I don’t take advantage of the blessings He has placed in my life. Sometimes simply asking for help is God’s way of pruning the pride we can develop as independent people. As a single person, sometimes we are more available than those that are married, and we are able to help out more frequently. We have to be careful,however, when we give and give and don’t ever say no—we can become bitter, irritable, and our joy can be lost. It is okay to say no, and it is okay to ask for help. The gift of friendship is a blessing, and we are called to lift each other up. Let’s remember it is okayto give and to receive.
It is okay to be a little selfish and get away for a while with God. Your children will see the priority that spending time with God should be through your actions. While as a single parent this can seem impossible, it can be done. One of the most common examples would be that of Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley. Amidst hardships and raising 10 children, she prioritized Christ. She didn’t have the luxury of down time, which many of us can relate to; however, she didn’t let that deter her. Susanna told her children if they saw her with her apron over her head, she was not to be disturbed. That was her time in prayer, and most importantly her time with God. Susanna made it work, and we can too.
There is no formula to practicing personal rest. For some, listening to worship music helps to focus their minds on Christ, others it is journaling, and some it is spending time reading. We cannot become legalistic in the how our rest needs to be done…we need to focus on the who and why. Prayer is essential, scripture is essential, and our intake may vary. I’m a nature person—I love to listen to worship music or listen to a good podcast while taking a walk, praising God for the beauty that surrounds me as I take each step. To get away is not selfish. We see in Jesus’ example in Luke 5:16. Luke tells us that “yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed” (Luke5:16 CSB). If the Son of God himself made solitary rest a priority, shouldn’t we?
It isn’t About Me
Sure the overflow of making sure we rest is that we are renewed, refreshed, and able to grow closer to God; however, like all things in our life, rest points to Christ. Rest is about Christ. Hebrews 4 talks about entering into the rest of Christ, and it gives us a beautiful picture of divine rest to come. We must view our time with God and our rest through a Christ centered lens, not a self absorbed mirror.
I hope that you are encouraged today. I hope that if you are weary and burdened, you take the time to turn to Christ. Rest is a struggle I deal with daily, but when I see it as a form of worship, as a picture of Christ, I begin to see the benefits of slowing down. It is time for us to step away for a while in the midst of the craziness and look to Christ. Be filled, and then you can give, watch yourself, and continually remember to look to Christ in all things.