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24/6 (A Beginner’s Journey into Sabbath)

“Sabbath is a time to transform from human doings to human beings.” (Matthew Sleeth)

Driven. Workaholic. Adrenaline junkie. Type A. 24/7. Savior of the world (or at least my world). All of these and more. That was the person behind this post. Until I wasn’t. Until it was stopped FOR ME several years ago.

Stopped. Key word. Stopped. Everything stopped. This mom of four, wife of one, ministry leader, job holder, keeper of an ordered house, ducks-in-a-row, mover and shaker stopped. Little did I know then, but a terrible and precious gift had been given to me that changed my world: the word STOP.

After this emergency “stop” in my life (which came in the form of a complete nervous breakdown…the summer where my four kids ate goldfish for breakfast and watched endless amounts of TV instead of the completing the summer transition homework I usually planned for them…it might have been their best summer ever), I began to question the value of this word. Was there room for me to rest, take a break, actually stop? Would the world I carefully crafted fall apart without me? I wasn’t sure. For so long, I had worked and solved and rushed and moved.

At the same time, I never wanted that emergency “stop” again. It had been horrible, filled with anxiety, panic attacks, dread and the feeling of being “out-of-body.” I was desperate to do something, anything.

In the meantime, words like “sabbath” and “margin” kept popping up and I came across a book, thanks to Pastor Tim Lucas, that I avidly read, “24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life” by Matthew Sleeth. The author is a former emergency room physician (can’t get any more important or busier) about how his life was transformed (physically, spiritually, relationally and emotionally) in his “always-on” world by adopting the practice of sabbath (which literally means “STOP” in Hebrew). I drank the words in and came away with two life-changers:

  • a best practice for me would be one where I worked 24/6 and rested 24/1

  • this rest period was a truly a gift for me, one straight from the heart of God

I began with baby steps, starting with 6 hours, the time the kids were in school. It was NOT easy. My anxiety skyrocketed as I closed the laundry room door, shut off my phone and accomplished nothing. I was sure my world would come crashing down. Guess what? It didn’t. I literally took naps and did nothing of any consequence. As a result (wait for it), nothing changed on the outside. Bills were still paid. Kids were still fed. Friends still loved me. Jobs got done. However, much began to change on the inside. Being allowed to be off-duty encouraged me. Saying “no” to my kids empowered me. The rest I so desperately needed calmed my adrenaline-addicted body. I enjoyed every moment of this “sabbath,” not wanting it to end. A small taste of the transformation Sleeth wrote about was mine.

It didn’t take a PhD in psychology to soon realize that I needed to take the plunge. Being the recovering work-a-holic that I am, I knew it had to be drastic. I drew a line in the sand: 24 HOURS. STOP. EVERY WEEK. More anxiety came with this next step. No change in my outside world once again. Much more change on the inside. This human doing began to give room for a human being.

It’s been seven years. Mine is on Fridays. My husband’s is on Sundays. There are weeks when I miss, sometimes because of circumstances supposedly beyond my control (and my people will tell you I get a bit cranky) and other times I still struggle to “shut the laundry room door.” But I can’t go very long without retreating back into that place of stopping for 24/1.

Many have questions that I have been asked time and again:

  • what do you do all day?

  • how does everything get done?

  • isn’t that legalistic?

  • do you watch TV?

  • what if I have kids?

  • what do I have to stop doing? gardening? painting? social media?

  • does it have to be a full 24 hours?

I have more to share with you (some will be my thoughts on the above questions) and will do so over time. It’s not a quick, change-in-a-moment kind of thing. It’s a heart-wrenching, life-time haul, slow-moving kind of thing. I am excited to slowly unpack my continuing journey towards rest(oration) for my body, mind, soul and spirit with you.

For now, I leave you with three of the many small gifts that I have received from my 24/6 adventure:

  • The world goes on without me and I don’t have to be the Savior of it (even in crazy, fast-paced, over-the-top New Jersey).

  • I have room for not “shoulding” all over myself for one 24-hour period.

  • I am never going back.

At the start of this journey, I asked, “What will happen if I do?” Now I ask a much different question (and have experienced the answer to it), “What will happen if I don’t?”

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