I’ll never forget that moment. Driving home from a grocery run, I listened to the chaos of my young kids, strapped in carseats behind me.
I don’t remember what they argued about. I don’t remember who whined the loudest or who strained the hardest to kick at their sibling despite the constraints of the car. I just remember feeling trapped. Stuck in a moving vehicle of crazy—with a cloud of frustrations swirling in my own crazy head.
And I snapped.
I started berating my kids, going on and on (and on) with belittling, unkind words. While one side of my brain yelled at the kids, the other side screamed at myself: “What are you doing? These are horrible things to say to your kids. You need to stop. . . Why aren’t you stopping? . . . For the love of all sanity, woman, stop!”
I am happy to report that we did not drive off the side of the road while I ranted. We somehow made it back home, despite my raging. But I felt awful. The kids felt awful. And I’m pretty sure any drivers who caught a glance at my face during that glorious moment felt pretty awful too.
I apologized to my kids and assured them of my love with extra snuggles during story time. And I apologized to God too—asking for more patience the next time around. But that lapse of self-control had become a pattern for me, and I was growing tired of apologizing for the same slip-ups again and again.
Over the coming months, God showed me a startling truth: There was a problem with my heart. It surprised me because I’d thought I was so strong-hearted. I’d been adding more ministry and more volunteering to my life for years, trying so very hard to live up to the “strong Christian woman” image I had in my head.
The idea of Sabbath was just that—an idea. I would start most days with a brief quiet time, sure. But after that, it was off to the races, and the races were long. The result was a weary, frazzled heart. One that frequently spewed unkind words toward myself–and sometimes let that ugliness bubble over onto my family.
I was a far cry from the grace-filled mama I wanted my children to grow up with: I wonder if any of you, dear readers, can relate?
A Quiet Call
Every day, in the midst of the chore charts and carpooling, the errands and play dates and myriad other things we do, God quietly pleas with every person’s heart: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Put another way? Take a break. Breathe. Remember that you don’t have control here, and no amount of trying is going to get a perfect outcome.
Let me be God.
God sees the fears and questions that bubble beneath the surface of our daily activity. He knows the worries that keep us awake at night. And instead of trying to unravel all these threads ourselves, He invites us to bring the tangled mess to Him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:18).
It’s a beautiful invitation. So why do we fight it?
Why is it so much easier to fill up the calendar with activities than to take quiet moments to fill up our hearts with peace? I think it’s because Sabbath is risky. It actually requires us to trust. That God loves us despite our weakness. That our worth doesn’t come from accomplishing “more.”
Sabbath is an attitude of the heart. It’s having the courage to take a break, even if we’re worried about what’s been left undone. It’s about admitting we need God, and trusting that he’ll still be at work in our world while we rest.
And there, as we disconnect from the noise—even if it’s just for a minute or two—we find God again. We notice his strong hand holding ours. We remember the deeper purpose he’s written in our story.
Those moments when we’re feeling thin and lost, and the control freak inside of us would have us just try to accomplish one more thing? Those are the exact moments when we need Sabbath the most.
Sometimes this takes a day—a Sunday of worship, family, and rest. Sometimes it can happen in a ten-minute break during a busy weekday afternoon. Maybe Sabbath looks like spending the first minutes of the day in quiet prayer instead of grabbing the phone and scrolling through social media apps.
However we find Sabbath, we’ll have to fight for it. Because this culture of ours doesn’t celebrate quiet reflection or rest. But then, it doesn’t really produce wholehearted and healthy people, either, does it?
A Sabbath Mom
Sabbath moms are strange creatures–because they don’t buy into the values of a culture that says “Do more. Go faster. Rack up as many accomplishments as you can.”
Sometimes they do more. Sometimes they go faster. Sometimes they achieve amazing things. But it’s not to prove their worth. Quite the opposite. Sabbath moms move forward in the world knowing their true value because they’ve taken the time to truly connect with God.
They don’t feel a need to control everything because they’re at peace with the One who’s really in control.
A Sabbath mom:
- teaches her kids the value of “enough” instead of always looking for “more” (whether it’s more extracurricular activities, more family fun, more stuff)
- says “no”—even to some good things—so that she can be fully present in the greater things.
- demonstrates gratitude for what she has, and asks God to provide what she needs.
- surrenders her iron grip on her family’s agenda, because she trusts God’s timing, even when she has real fears.
- offers her dreams and desires to God with trusting, open hands.
- takes time to rest, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives, author Wayne Muller writes “At our best, we become Sabbath for one another. . . We become space, that our loved ones, the lost and sorrowful, may find rest in us.” This is, ultimately, the gift of a Sabbath mom.
Sabbath gives us a glimpse beyond the clock, a way to enter into God’s time. In that space, fear and self-focus lose their grip on our good intentions. Our hearts quiet and our spirits open to those around us. We, ourselves, become an invitation. A calm in the midst of our loved one’s storms.
As I’ve tried to practice Sabbath more faithfully, I’ve learned this: Sometimes, the best thing I can do for my family and my world—is nothing.
My kids laugh about that historic car outburst with me now. But I still remember the pain of living with such a frayed heart. I fought Sabbath for so long–thinking I somehow had to play God’s part and try to do it all. But when I finally surrendered to God’s gentle call for rest, I found more peace and self-control in everyday life.
And there in the resting, God’s given me the secret gift of every Sabbath mom. And it’s something our performance-driven, fast-paced world can never give us:
A heart at rest.