Michelle Sanchez: Start With Sabbath

Over the years I have observed Sabbath in fits and starts, and in different ways. But I have literally given this testimony to people: “The Sabbath saved my life.” Without a doubt, Sabbath has allowed me to sustain God’s mission over the long haul with both fruitfulness and joy.

Think about this: Although the Sabbath was technically the seventh day for God, it was the first full day for us. God did not create Adam and Eve on Day 1, but on Day 6. So, from their vantage point, almost immediately after entering into the world for the very first time, they were ushered into Sabbath joy. That was, of course, God’s intention.  God shaped us from clay—then immediately invited us to play.  

I love how in the Jewish conception of the Sabbath as the 24-hour time period that actually begins at night, extending from sundown to sundown. I live in a neighborhood with a thriving Jewish community, and on one Friday night, my husband and I just happened to find ourselves at the home of some Jewish friends. They spontaneously invited us to join them in their weekly welcome of the Sabbath (or “Shabbat”). All this means that in the Jewish conception, your day begins not with ramping up for work but with winding down. From this perspective, the human “day” begins with slumber and rest—with the undeniable acknowledgement of our limitations as God quietly continues his work of making the world go round.

What does it mean, in practice, for disciples of Jesus to practice Sabbath? Most would agree that the church is no longer beholden to every detail of God’s covenant with Israel. And yet, for me, there’s still something universal about Sabbath, especially given that it holds a timeless place within the Ten Commandments.  

Today, I believe that Sabbath-keeping is most essentially about the commitment to regular rhythms of rest in Christ. I also believe that we each have creative freedom, together with the Lord, to determine what that looks like in different seasons of our lives.  As Scripture says, “Do not let anyone judge you by … a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col. 2:16–17). 

I aim to take a full day of Sabbath on Sundays, but because I travel regularly and preach on Sundays, I sometimes have to be intentional about calendaring in another day of the week. One pastor I know made a practice of splitting up 24 hours of rest over several days of the week. Still others quite wisely expand upon the principle of Sabbath by engaging in rhythms of rest not only weekly, but also monthly, quarterly or annually. Regardless of how we choose to approach it, forming a regular practice of resting in Christ is vital to our spiritual health and flourishing.

Michelle T. Sanchez is the author of Color-Courageous Discipleship and God’s Beloved Community. She also serves as the senior leader for evangelism and discipleship in the Evangelical Covenant Church. 

Michelle Sanchez
Michelle Sanchezhttps://michelletsanchez.com/

Michelle T. Sanchez has served in various discipleship and evangelism leadership roles for more than a decade, most recently as executive minister of make and deepen disciples for the Evangelical Covenant Church. She’s the author of Color-Courageous Discipleship (WaterBrook).