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One Important Reason to Sabbath That No One Talks About

Written by on September 16, 2023

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Maybe because it seems selfish to focus on ourselves on our day of rest to honor the Lord, I haven’t seen many people make the connection between sabbath days and getting to know ourselves better. But knowing ourselves, our true selves, is an under-utilized resource in bringing God’s kingdom to Earth.

Keeping sabbath days is an Old Testament command to rest on the seventh day of every week because God rested from creating all of creation on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-10a, 11b). But under Jesus, we are no longer bound to the Law–but that doesn’t mean we should throw out this spiritual practice altogether.

I like how the Bible Project puts it: “Sabbath is not a commandment we are bound to; it’s a promise we’re invited to enjoy. Sabbath rest is an invitation to practice for eternity in God’s presence. It is an act of regular and intentional trust of God’s rule on Earth.”

This invitation to rest in God produces many beautiful things in us — obedience, trust in his provision, and getting to know his character of love better — topics many people have written about.

But one more important thing that I believe sabbath accomplishes is how we get to know ourselves better. And therefore, get even closer to being pure, unhindered images of God on this earth.

Why It’s Essential That We Know Ourselves

Why does it matter that we know ourselves? I believe that because God made us in his image, to know ourselves is to know God.

At the very beginning of God’s story with his people, “ …God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Contrary to what Church culture may have us believe at times, we are not innately horrible, sinful creatures. We are good. We are made in the very image of God–he passed on his own characteristics, traits, habits, humor, talents, and dreams to us. We are walking, talking, and breathing representations of the Most High God. That is how we are at our core! And this manifestation of God looks different for every person.

So when we’re cut off from our sense of self, we’re cut off from a wealth of knowledge of who God is. And we’re also cut off from the indelible impression that God made us to make on this world.

We can get cut off from our true selves for any number of reasons. Trauma, survival mode, people pleasing, spiritual abuse, societal pressure, and our own sin all have their hand in suppressing our God-given nature. But how kind, generous, creative, funny, hospitable, and powerful you think you will be when you get to Heaven, you can be that person here on Earth!

And sabbath helps to get us there.

How Sabbath Helps You Get to Know Yourself Better

Sabbath is a spiritual practice and a heart posture rather than a strictly outlined ceremony. That means there are many ways to practice it, which means you get to find what works best for you and your unique relationship with God.

For me, learning to trust God’s provision and get to know his heart better means that I take a full day of work off every week. I am very careful to stop my personal projects and clock out because this forces me to believe that God will come through, even if I am not earning as much money or making as much progress as I would if I didn’t take that day off.

So, what do I fill my time with instead? Basically, anything I want!

If it fills my heart, lights me up, and reminds me that God is a loving Father who wants me to be happy, then I believe it is an excellent use of my sabbath day. For me, that looks like taking a long time to read my Bible and journal at a coffee shop, sit outside, watch a great movie, paint my nails, go on a date with my husband, or visit a new town.

But it took a lot of time and a lot of work to get to a place where I knew myself well enough to know that these are the things that light me up.

And this knowledge of myself has been instrumental in becoming the beautiful, soft, generous person God made me to be outside of sabbath days because now I know what I need.

I spent a lot of sabbaths napping, scrolling on my phone, or getting time with people who drained my energy because I’m an introvert. But if those are the very activities for others that would give them energy and help them fall more in love with God, that’s a great thing! (My husband is a classic nap-all-day-type sabbather because it makes him feel so taken care of by God. And I love that for him!)

It’s not about what you do but why you do it. So, honestly, sabbaths can be anything. And if you don’t know yourself, this can be terrifying. But I also believe that’s why it can be so beautiful.

Start experimenting with your sabbath days. See how much rest versus fun activity helps you to feel your best and get to know God. Spend some sabbaths mainly doing spiritual things and spend others doing mostly hobbies. Try something new. Spend no money one sabbath, and treat yourself the next. Invite your friends to sabbath with you, and then try the next one as a recluse.

And notice: what felt good? What gave you more energy? What prepared you for getting back to working for others? What felt selfish, and is it truly selfish, or do you feel guilty for no reason?

All of this information is instrumental in getting you closer to the Imago Dei that God formed in your mother’s womb.

Sabbaths are an ultra-powerful form of self-care. Not only is it a chance to care for your body, but it’s a chance to care for your soul. And when you know this soul, the precious soul that God made with his own hands, then you learn more about what this soul was meant to do for others. So, how can that be selfish?

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Yolya 

Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is a former editor at Crosswalk.com. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earrings on Instagram and her website for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.

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The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

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