Remembering the Sabbath Day
Growing up as a Seventh Day Adventist the Sabbath—day of rest— was a tough experience for kids, teenagers, and young adults. What is the Sabbath and what made it so tough? It was a day to be removed from all the worldly things and a day to honor and worship God.
And he said unto them “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
St. Mark 2:27
Observing the Day of Rest
My brother and I learned that when we heard a loud whistle during the week while outside playing and off in the distance, it meant that Dad was calling us to come for dinner. This was true for every day except for Friday evenings.
For Seventh Day Adventists our Sabbath began at sunset Friday and ended sunset Saturday. Our friends got to know this well after a while but always found it strange.
After dinner and cleaning up afterward, we bathed and changed into pajamas. We gathered in the living room with Bible study materials in hand and began to work through our lesson for the week with Mom as it would be discussed in Bible class at church the next day. Mom asked us questions after going through the materials to test our retention and preparedness. Afterward, we made small talk which often included some laughter or we would watch our fish tank full of Guppies which we’d often see the males chasing the females to and fro. (I could never figure out why the males were the pretty and colorful ones and the females so plain.)
Next, we would get our clothes together for the next day; press our shirts, shine our shoes, clean our suits of any lint, and hang it all on the door knob of our bedroom doors ready for the Sabbath Day. This was the proper way to honor God in His house…the house of worship.
In the morning on the day of the Sabbath, we’d often hear Dad singing in the shower or while shaving. Indeed it was the Sabbath. He sang Mahalia Jackson usually or other church hymns but if he was really feeling good he’d put an album on of hers and really get into it. It made us know that the Sabbath was here.
Sabbath class was often fun and interesting. Our teacher spoke in a manner that young people could understand and relate to. Inside the main sanctuary was a different situation. It was for the adults and spoken in a way that put kids and some adults including a deacon or two to sleep. We had to sit up and not slouch in our seats. And of all places we could choose to sit, Dad always chose the row just behind the deacons front and center. Funny how if we came to sit late “our row” always seemed to be reserved just for us. When the pastor began to get heavy in his sermon he’d often pound on the pulpit and raise his voice like pastor John Hagee (what a powerful voice that man has). This was also a sign that the sermon was coming to a close and we’d be on our way home.
After returning home from the church which usually was early afternoon we sat down for dinner. We often tried to prepare as much as possible the night before so as to minimize the work effort for meal preparations because the Sabbath was a day of rest from cooking, too. Dinnerware set aside for Sabbath was made of stone and beautiful. The only other occasions permitted were Thanksgiving dinner. From time to time we’d stop at a restaurant such as Don Hodel’s in the old Northridge fashion Mall for supper though I don’t think that was in keeping with strict guidelines for the observance. But dinner invitations from church members were often and in abundance.
After returning home early afternoon the day was still young and so far as we kids were concerned we had honored the Sabbath as we saw it. This was not so. The remainder of the day was to remain such as in observance as much the same as it began Friday evening. Small talk and napping were on order until the sun had set. Acting silly with each other–brother, sister, and myself–was often the way we spent our time until we could see the sun had set. “Dad, can we go outside now?” He’d look as though searching for the last ray of sunshine and say, “you can go outside now”.
I sat and wondered in reflection today just how challenging it must be to practice such self-discipline in a more modern world of which we live in today as compared to the mid 70’s into the early 80’s. There is so much to distract us today from a more pragmatic experience of life than has ever been. Television, radio, game consoles, computers, and the most notorious one of all…the so-called a smartphone. It seems as though the is no time for introspection with all the chaos of life.
The Sabbath wasn’t something that I or my siblings looked forward to necessarily because no one outside the church we knew observed it. And though I am not a Sabbatarian anymore I have a great deal of respect for having honored the practice of keeping the Sabbath. It has taught me that life requires a day of rest. In the modern world, we live in it is the best way to become or remain humble. The greatest lesson was self-discipline; learning to do things that build character and humility.
Today I still benefit from a day of rest but in a modified secular way; I turn off the noise and appreciate the natural world around me and my place in it; I read, think and reflect on my life. I may ride my bike up to the lake at the park and find my favorite bench and sit for several hours thinking about the world. But on that day, it is a time I have set aside to escape and be at peace.