Filling Up the Sabbath

In an illustration depicting how effective people maximize time, Stephen Covey portrayed a scenario where a container’s space is maximized when larger rocks (top priorities) are placed in first, and only then is the space filled with lesser priorities—this way you get more in the container.

Last summer I spent a week with Jewish farmers on a sustainable living community. Intrigued by their intense commitment to keep kosher and observe Sabbath, I asked one of the leaders where an overly-taxed gentile should start when it comes to keeping the sacred pause, especially with a young family. His answer surprised me: “Find one thing that your family never gets to do that they love that doesn’t involve technology. Do that. Watch this one act architect the rest of the day.” Heschel proposes that Sabbath is the architect of the rest of the week, this day shaping all others. But who has time for Sabbath? Well, as it turns out, we did.

The next Sabbath my family and I drove to a state park and spent the day breaking every technicality of the law, and absolutely fulfilling its intent—Sabbath made for humankind, not humankind for Sabbath. My Jewish friend was right, as was Stephen Covey—put the big rock in first and watch everything else be properly displaced, filling in around what matters most.

Now, from time to time, one of the kids will ask me if it’s almost Sabbath. Their eyes light up with anticipation, not for play, but for the experience of togetherness, laughter, contemplation and worship. Start with what you love and long for rather than things you must cut out.