Losing the Sabbath

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Tim Miller 2011 09 04 Minjungal Aboriginal Culture Centre 029 square

Our first three-day holiday weekend living in Switzerland was the worst. We sat around eating bowls of dry cereal that tasted like sawdust, while the kids cast mournful glances at the refrigerator and my husband gave helpful suggestions such as “Maybe you should stock up on food in advance. You know, plan for the weekend?” After resisting the urge to throw his bowl of dry cereal in the trash, I promised through gritted teeth that I would try to remember.

One month prior to the dry cereal incident, our family moved to Switzerland from the United States. We learned, after quite a few weekends feasting on crumbs and tap water and driving around town aimlessly looking for an open grocery store, that the Swiss take a Sunday Sabbath. As in, an actual day off from work. No shopping, no errands, and absolutely no outdoor noise. Mowing your lawn or recycling on a Sunday invites the police straight to your door.

The Swiss set aside Sunday, and all national holidays, as a day of rest. Sunday is for family. For long walks in the forest, for picnics beside the lake, for bike rides or hiking or inviting other families to come around. Sunday is not for catching up or for the mad dash to the grocery store after church service in order to beat the lines. It isn’t a day for making lists or soccer practice or trying to squeeze in a trip to the local shopping mall.

It took us a year of Sundays to understand it, to no longer complain when the shops closed at 6pm on Saturday evening. It took us a year to settle into the silence, a year of living in a foreign country, to finally understand God’s commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. We discovered the holiness of setting aside a day in which we did not work, and we discovered the holiness of spending time together as a family. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, we spent lazy Sunday mornings around our family table. We read the Bible together, hiked together, traveled, laughed, fought, and lived life together.

After three years of Sundays abroad, we moved back to the USA. On our return, I have felt a quiet creep—an insistent urge from deep within my American muscle memory—pushing me to accomplish more. To fit more into my day and errand myself out of peace of mind. When I can’t fit everything in during school hours and the evening rush, I’m tempted to use my weekend the way Americans assume the good Lord intended—for catching up.

I fear with this move, I will lose the Sabbath I had so slowly gained.


Kimberly Coyle is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle.

Image by Tim Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.