Author | Steve
First, let me say that I know very little about living in Sabbath. But God is teaching me.
I’ve known for a long time that it is a commandment:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
~ Exodus 20:8
I’ve grown to understand that what God commands He always intends to bless. Dan Allender, in his book Sabbath, writes:
“A commandment is often assumed merely to be a prohibition. Such thinking is idiocy.
God’s commandments prevent us from sucking diesel fumes
in order to orient us to delicious, fresh air (p. 7).”
I just started reading this book at the recommendation of a new friend in my life. The first chapter has already got my brain reeling. Today, I just want to share something that I had forgot, but remembered because of my reading. Allender says that central to Sabbath is “delight.” He goes on to write:
“…I believe that, to some extent, we are all troubled by delight. We are not averse to pleasure escapes or vacations. To vacate is to empty – that is, to get rid of something. When we vacate or take a vacation, we are not merely taking off from work; we are flushing away the cares of the world as we indulge in the diversions of our empty space (p. 11).”
“The Sabbath is the kind of delight that leads to life (p. 12).”
“[Sabbath] is about good food, drink, music, conversation, and
the remembrance of sitting with God in the garden (p. 14).”
“The Sabbath is a feast day that remembers our leisure in Eden
and anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth
with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God (p. 5).”
Sabbath Growing Up
When I was growing up in Bear Creek, west of Houston, this is what life was like. I forgot. But I remembered as I read Allender’s words.
We lived far from everything. When we moved into our house in 1977, we were one of three houses in the middle of nothing but farm fields and pasture land.
On Sundays, we would wake up early to travel the almost 20 miles to our church. Our church was a singing church. We would relish worship, especially the singing and the Supper. We would spend another hour in the Word with our friends. Afterwards, we would run to the adult Bible class to see if anyone had announced they were pregnant (the way they announced was with Shipley donuts!).
On the thirty-minute ride home, we would discuss theology – my mom, dad, sister and me. We did all the hard yard and house work on Saturdays. Most Sundays, mom put on an entire crock-pot of chili-con-queso, then took a nap. Everybody would fend for themselves for the afternoon, dipping whatever they could find in the yumminess of queso! Once a month or so we would go out to eat with church friends for a long lunch at a BBQ or Tex-Mex place. I remember the year one of the moms went into labor right while we were standing in line to order our food!
After lunch, for a couple hours, we would each do what we absolutely loved to do. Dad would turn on an old John Wayne western or the football game and pull out the Sunday paper that he would inevitably end up snoring into. Me and my sister would play some game together, build a fort, swim, or ride our bikes. Sometimes I would paint or draw a picture. Sometimes I would set my army men and matchbox cars on fire with a magnifying glass. When Dad woke up from his paper reading, we would play together in the backyard tossing a ball or doing cannon balls into the pool or piddling in the flowerbeds. It was a pure time of games, wonder and creativity (and as we got older – a brief nap).
In the evenings, we would gather back together, sometimes having friends over for dinner, sometimes watching a family movie together, sometimes just catching up on life and telling old family stories.
I’m probably remembering it better than it actually was, but my memory of Sundays was one of pure bliss: family, good food, rest, play, laughter. It was good to remember that. I think it was an accurate foretaste of the feast to come. I’m so grateful this was part of my growing up. More than that, I’m grateful for God’s character of Sabbath – that He would give to us a day like this; a day full of wonder and delight.
I pray that He will give me the ability to keep it holy in a world that has lost wonder and delight, exchanging it for escape, consumption and busyness. I have to admit, I escape more than I delight.
Allender ends chapter one with this question:
“What would I do for a twenty-four-hour period of time
if the only criteria was to pursue my deepest joy (p.15)?”
Hmmmm. Good question.
Steve, Thanks for sharing. It sounds much like the Sunday at home when I was growing up. After Dad finished leading Bible Class and Worship and the rest of the family attended those sessions as age appropriate, we either went home to a dinner mom had prepared in a “Dutch Oven” with guests that Dad had invited at the last minute after worship, or we had received an invite out to some members home. The afternoons were spent playing cards or board games [there was NO TV in our home when I was a child]. It was restful and fun. I need to reflect more on such a day of pure delight “in the Word and Sacrament [especially as I am now serving my third Interim] and then returning home to my wife of 47 years and the rest we enjoy together in the afternoon an evening.” God had a good plan. We need to follow more closely His desire for us. Richard
God is so good! What a gift His Sabbath is.
They asked us once in Sunday school at Peace what commandment we would like to be better at keeping. I said just once before I die, I hope I can actually establish keeping the Sabbath.
Right now I am reading Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn, for about the 3rd time, and one of these times, it will actually “take.” Why isn’t this easier to do? I don’t know, but it seems to be almost an impossible discipline for me. I, too, remember long lazy Sunday afternoons as a kid. Mom cooked Sunday dinner at noon, but she didn’t cook in the evening. We were on our own, so I would make pizza for myself and the younger kids. We rambled around doing a lot of nothing. I’m sure there were times when we drove each other nuts, but my siblings share these memories of peace and plenty.
Besides Marva Dawn, I find the reflections of observant Jews to be helpful. They have been living this countercultural life longer than we have. Partly, in the past, the culture gave us more support – you couldn’t shop on Sunday even if you wanted to, and only the essential workers (health care, police, fire) were called in to work. We kind of let the culture take us away regarding this commandment, I think.
“Why isn’t this easier to do?” No kidding!
Jamie and I were talking about this again this afternoon. I think our broken, sinful nature prefers the chains of rules, doing, and earning to the freedom of delighting in someone else’s hard work for us. We think if we’re in control its better.
Sometimes time erodes your memories but not your delight. You were pretty much right on with your memories of Sunday. What’s amazing is that’s also how I was raised. Sunday was worship, family, food and rejuvenation through exercising your gifts and passions be they art, games, sports, interactions with family and friends, etc. So you see it’s a lot about legacy and exposure plus a little bit of searching for new. Sundays in my life prepared me to face Mondays with a smile and anticipation.
Thanks for the safe place to explore and delight in God’s creation. Good memories.