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Prioritize a Weekly “Sabbath” to Rest and Renew from Your Labors

Prioritize a Weekly “Sabbath” to Rest and Renew from Your Labors

By Susie Leonard Weller

I’ve often felt mixed feelings about celebrating the Labor Day Holiday. On one hand, enjoying a three-day weekend is always a delight. On the other hand, as a teacher working in an academic setting for 28 years, it also signaled the beginning of a new school year.

I grieved the ramping up of my responsibilities after enjoying the relaxing pace of summer. Sadly, I noticed an unsustainable pattern of going full blast until I collapsed on the weekends or school holidays.

Even after being retired for nine years, I’m still ensnared by over-scheduling my volunteer activities and not prioritizing sufficient time for rest on a weekly basis. This Labor Day Weekend, I’m committing to enjoying a “Sabbath” on a weekly basis throughout the year.

Many spiritual traditions encourage taking a weekly day off as a Sabbath. In our 24/7 world, I’m not saying it has to be a Saturday or a Sunday, but a consistent 24-hour time period of rest on a regular basis — preferably weekly. For some, their day off might begin on the evening before and end after dinner the next day.

My point is — make the time to rest on a systematic basis. At times, I’ve been prone to “cheating” on my day off. I promise myself that I’ll just spend a few hours on a project, and afterward I’ll rest. But the reality is, I don’t experience the full benefits of resting on my Sabbath when I interrupt it with a work activity.

Frankly, it’s a new discipline for me to give myself permission to play and relax. Being too busy and serious have often been my excuses and code words for not feeling “enough” and distracting myself through workaholism to be “perfect.” Throughout my life, I’ve been rewarded at home and at work for being overly responsible and getting things done in a timely way. Although there is always more that I could do — when do I begin to trust that what I’ve done is sufficient?

Relaxing through play is our natural birthright. However, due to trauma and other challenges, some struggle more than others to feel light-hearted — rather than guilty — when relaxing. Similar to me, many parents have been so exhausted that taking time for fun can often feel like just one more chore on our “to-do” list.

Whenever I need a pep talk that it’s okay to relax and play, I remind myself that playful activities also teach multiple life skills — physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. They also create a foundation for healthy adult relationships. Experiencing fun together is often the “glue” that holds family relationships together — especially when times are tense.

Why? Because they create joyful and sensory memories of being loved and accepted. Research confirms that those who play together tend toward enjoying each other and staying together.

Recently, the words from Matthew’s Gospel: 11:28-30 have been inspiring me to let go of some of the heavy burdens that I’ve been carrying. Jesus reminds me:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In agricultural communities, to be “yoked together” meant two animals or people were working and pulling together for a common purpose and goal. Together, they balanced any burdens and made them easier to manage. Doing more than my share can create an imbalance that fosters resentment. To be “humble in heart” means that I do what is mine to do — not what my ego demands of me.

This Labor Day Weekend, as we prepare to start a new academic year, I encourage you to join me in finding consistent ways to honor a weekly Sabbath in our lives. May we release our burdens and make choices that restore and renew our well-being throughout the year.

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