I have always loved the Sabbath day.
Ok, that’s a lie. When I was a teenager (and probably a child) I chafed against what I saw as the restrictions of the Sabbath Day. My parents were very strict about Sabbath observance and I was grumpy that I couldn’t go and play wiffle ball (at the Bishop’s house!) or sunbathe (just on the deck!) or even do my procrastinated homework (the glory of God is intelligence!). But as I grew up, and continued to observe the Sabbath (and even try to honor it), I found delight. Delight in an unassailable day that beat back the grind of daily life. I think we could all use a little more of that space.
Along the way, I also realized three really important things.
1- The scriptures teach that “The sabbath was made for (wo)man, and not (wo)man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
Reading that was an eye opener. I am not a slave to the Sabbath…it was MADE FOR ME. It was not made to restrict me but rather given to benefit me.
One of the root meanings of “holy”is “bringing health or whole.” When our Heavenly Parents have given us the gift of the Sabbath (and it IS a gift)—then They have given us the opportunity to rejuvenate for a day – to rest from our labors and our worries, to nurture the relationships we care about most, to slow down and breathe, to pause and ensure we are remembering our own divinity and feel God’s love. That is truly a gift.
2- People do the Sabbath differently.
So if the Sabbath was made for each of us and is a gift…then what do I need the Sabbath to be (for me and my family)? Rather than a list of “thou shalt nots” I would propose we think of the Sabbath in terms of what we and our families need to rejuvenate and come closer to God. And the thing is, keeping the Sabbath day “holy”…as a day to promote wellness and devotion… can be very different for different people. One family I know likes to bake together on Sunday evenings. They find the time coming together creating in the kitchen, enjoying the fruits of their labor, and also using the baked goods to serve their neighbors and others is beneficial to their family. However, frankly, that sounds very close to my own personal hell. Baking? Rejuvenating? HA!
I live in India where the work and school week includes Saturday. The only day we have as a family is Sunday. So, we have split Sunday into two sections: Sunday morning is the Sabbath and Sunday afternoon is, well, the Saturday of my growing up years. We do family activities together, we play, we watch movies, we do chores. This is never the way I would have expected to set up life— but it IS what works for my family now.
When I visited other countries in the world, the “Sabbath” LDS church service was on a Thursday night for Filipino nannies in Hong Kong and Saturday for Saints in the Middle East.
Every person and family (and situation) has different needs. The Sabbath should help you fulfill those, recognizing the Sabbath might look different at different stages of life. And, let’s be clear— this is not just an excuse to do whatever you want. Have the personal integrity to know and act the difference.
3- And if you do it right (and by right, I mean the way that works for you and God)— honoring the Sabbath provides great peace and rejuvenation.
Now, I think, the trick is how to do this. Some people feel the Sabbath is simply one extra-busy day with church commitments and family dinner to prepare and wrangling energetic children and getting everyone pressed and dressed and hopefully wearing matching socks for church. Additionally, I think women always wrestle with the Mary and Martha dilemma of feeling the press of temporal things while our souls yearn for the spiritual. (And, for some, caring for the temporal IS a spiritual offering.) But if we can carve out the holiness of the day, to find a way to honor the health and wholeness the day of respite can offer, we will be blessed. Isaiah promises that if we call the Sabbath a delight then “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth…”
As women, we need to pay special attention to nurturing our souls. Research shows we are much better at taking care of others’ needs before our own. However, depletion serves no one. So let’s take advantage of the gift and use the Sabbath as an excellent dose of self-care.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Learning From All God’s Peoples, Élodie Picard
“When it comes to faith, what I missed, and what I hadn’t realized before, was the visiting teachers, the home teachers; the fact that sometimes we could chat, count on each other. During the winter Paul would sometimes leave for several weeks way up in the mountains and he couldn’t come home. In these cases we no longer had the Priesthood, so no more Sacrament either. I really felt how much was lacking from Sundays. That’s why Sunday in this church is for taking the sacrament. It’s the most sacred time, the most solemn and the most important part of the Sabbath day. And when I didn’t have the sacrament, after three weeks or a month, it was really hard. I felt in serious need of replenishment. And I had never felt that before not having it.”
Goodness Has A Lunge To It, Catharine Platt McGraw
“It was great to be a Mormon in the Muslim culture, not only because of the whole effect of Muslim family values on the society, but particularly because of the women. Seven years in an Arab girls’ school freed me from many of the constraints that American girls face and also exposed me to the strong, educated, devoted, gracious women that that world can cultivate. I am the oldest of four and, for some of the time, we were the only members of the Church in the area, or there were just a few other people. All the time I was growing up, we had church in our home, which was not large, and we crammed more and more people in there. We celebrated the Sabbath on Friday because that is the day people have off in the Arab world (as something like a day of worship). Us kids would get up on Sabbath mornings and rearrange all the furniture in the house into rows of seats. The bathroom didn’t have a class in it, but every single other nook and cranny—including outside with the animal incubators—had a church class going in it. I presume to this day that an office or classroom will have skulls and incubators in it!”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Anchors of Testimony, Mary N. Cook
“Another young woman decided that one of the stakes in her life was to observe the Sabbath, regardless of her circumstances. One year after she was baptized a member of the Church with her family, her ward was divided. Her family was assigned to the newly formed ward, and she was the only young woman in the new ward. Her parents resisted the change and stopped attending church, but she wanted to follow the guidelines in For the Strength of Youth on ‘Sabbath Day Observance.’ She decided to go to church in the new ward whenever she could, even though it meant attending all of her meetings alone.
On Sundays she read her scriptures and worked on Personal Progress. Her decision to be ‘steadfast and immovable’ in observing the Sabbath encouraged her mother and younger sister to begin attending church again. Her mother testified that her daughter’s steadfast example of living the gospel and her goodness helped them return to activity.
‘You express your faith through action—by the way you live.’ The lives of these young women expressed their faith. And note that their faith and exemplary lives resulted in good works. Sisters blessed sisters, and a daughter helped her mother return to Church activity.”