How to Keep the Sabbath with Young Kids

“Now I think that the principle in the New Testament is that God ordains that one day in seven be restful. I think that’s a creation ordinance for our good, for our health.” —John Piper

Growing up a daughter to a Baptist preacher, I thought I knew what it was to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11), but because Sundays were intense work days for my dad, our “Sabbath” came on another day. Even though my dad spent numerous hours studying, preparing, counseling, visiting, and sometimes working another job to supply income, he was intentional about “six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” He wasn’t afraid to take a nap, watch a movie or lounge outside. We went to the park, camped out, and avoided to-do lists (which was quite a feat for my dad).

Now, as a type-A, work-from-home mom, I try to adopt my parent’s example. Aside from church, my top priority for Sunday is rest…and not just physical rest, but mental and emotional rest. I don’t grade papers or clean bathrooms or do laundry.  This past Sunday–as is often the case–I tried to be intentional about napping, but despite the lengthy movie and snacks and instructions to “rest,”  my children decided to wake me.  Although I got a little frustrated, the experience prompted the question, “What is the Sabbath supposed to look like with young children?” Not all children nap until age six (mine gave up that time years ago), and not all children are compliant and follow directives (yes, we can discipline, but the window of opportunity is already gone).

So, I want to learn how to be more intentional with rest on the Sabbath while my children still require extra care/attention. After all, getting a full parent-duty day off isn’t an option, nor do I want to ignore my children. The Sabbath isn’t about “me time” but something more–something better.

First off, a few words on why we rest: just as labor honors the Lord, so does rest. When we choose to set aside our to-do lists, research, communication/marketing, emails, laundry, yard work, grading, organizing, or cleaning, we say, “It can wait. The Lord will sustain me and my world.” When we feel like we can’t set aside our duties for one day, we erroneously believe we are more important than we are. Those that can’t take a day off believe more about themselves than they should and are failing to trust God to preserve and provide.

“At least one indication of unbelief is the tendency to measure life’s challenges against our own adequacy instead of God’s promises. To enter our Sabbath rest, we must put an end to self-reliance – trusting in our own abilities to overcome difficulties, rise above challenges, escape tragedies, or achieve personal greatness.”
― Charles R. Swindoll

On Sundays, I don’t accomplish my online job or do laundry (unless someone wets that bed), but I still get caught up in meal preparations, dirty dishes, and a toy-cluttered living room. Even though my children have become more self-sufficient, they still require assistance with clothes, hair, snacks, drinks, etc.  And sometimes Sundays can start to feel like every other day.

I started reading what some other moms have posted regarding their rest-time rituals. Many advocate television (helps you mentally check out as well as physically resting), but something in my spirit cringed. God’s purpose for the Sabbath was rest, but not mindless numbing out. He wants us to rest, but He also wants us engaged with Him in a way we normally couldn’t on a work day. We should choose activities that refresh us mentally, spiritually and physically.  I’m not saying a person can’t watch a movie on a Sabbath (we do all the time), but perhaps it should be an intentional effort instead of a babysitter or default activity to check out on life.

One area I felt convicted in involved my lack of preparedness. How much time do I put into planning Sunday so that it was more restful?

  • Prepare for the Sabbath. The night before, set out the kids’ clothes (as well as my own–which usually takes longer anyway) for church. Pick up the house so I’m not tempted to clean/organize on my rest day. Put a meal in the crock-pot or make extra leftovers the day before. Buy stuff for sandwiches and use paper plates to minimize clean-up.

  • Make worship a priority (and not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the whole day) Choose to be intentional about your thoughts, practices, and time. As my husband says, “We’re always worshipping something. Are my actions reflecting a lifestyle of praise to God…or myself?

  • Say no to the excessive chatter of technology. Be willing to set aside your phone and social media skimming. Read a book, study Scripture together, listen to uplifting music. Step away from the chaos that constantly inundates us and encourage your kids to do so as well. Their spirits need the break too.

  • Focus on family time. God created and ordained the family unit. He also established marriage and the beauty of relationships. Be intentional with those people. Do more with them–even if it’s just “being”–than you do the other six days of the week. Play games, go for a hike, color together, laugh.

  • Set aside time for being alone. This idea might seem contrary to the previous one, but as our pastor says, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first so you are better equipped to help others.” Since my husband and I are both introverts, we need time just to process, analyze and rest….alone. Give your spouse a little break from the kids; it doesn’t have to be lengthy, but even a half hour of prayer or a power nap helps considerably.

God draws near to the one who withdraws for a while. It is better for you to look after yourself this way in private than to perform wonders in public while neglecting your soul.”
― Thomas à Kempis

“When we trust God by taking our hands off our work, what we give up through Sabbath ultimately benefits those around us.”
― Shelly MillerRhythms of Rest

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: