Book Review: For Sabbath’s Sake

by Rosalind Hughes

“Should this be your first go of sabbath, don’t write that you want to observe a strict twenty-four hours in a mountain cave while doing a headstand atop hot coals.”

Good advice abounds in this new book by J. Dana Trent, as does good humor. I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a writers’ conference this summer, and was further rewarded with the pleasure of reading an advance e-copy of her book, For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing your need for rest, worship, and community.

This Sabbath thing is different from a prescription for self-care whose end is to extend our productivity or general usefulness. It is not a Puritanical penance for the other six days of living large. It is a remembrance that God made time, and hollowed out within it a resting place for us to share with our Creator. Who would knowingly turn down such an invitation?

There is no hint of reprobation here for those of us who struggle to keep the Fourth Commandment; only an invitation to wonder how it might be to revel in the gift of God’s time. That’s not to say that I felt no guilt reading this book. As an Episcopal priest, the experience of a new Episcopalian seeking and failing to find guidance or example within her church of how to practice Sabbath caused me to think about the messages I am giving my congregation (by sitting at my computer, for example, after service and before the next public activity, writing this book review).

Towards the end of the book, a sub-title declares, “Ego is the Enemy.” Since meeting Dana this summer, and being provoked by her to consider my own approach to Sabbath, I have been reminded regularly that God, in the story of Genesis, after six days of Creation, decided that a day of rest would be a fine idea. “Who am I,” I find that I keep asking myself, “to decide that I need less rest than God?” Ego is the enemy of letting myself into that time hollowed out by God as a resting place to share with my Creator.

But just as God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy, so this book offers the grace of companionship through the hurdles and hobbling that come between us and our Sabbath rest.

These is even, for those keen on a check-list, a helpful Appendix of suggestions, including scripture references, and guidance towards Trent’s trinity of Sabbath practices: rest, worship, and community.

My take-away, though, is a certain wistfulness, a longing for that hollow space where God is waiting for me. This book has reminded me what I am missing, and like a helpful spiritual friend, nudged me in the direction of finding my own way back to Sabbath, back to the beginning, back to God.

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