It used to be easy. Well, easier.
The shade-lined streets of my childhood stood still on Sundays.
Sound? Church bells. Birds and breeze in trees. No busy traffic rush and roar. Doors of stores all locked up tight. Except one drug store, taking turn, round robin with the others, providing just its pharmacy for emergencies. No shopping malls sprawled wide, and up in the city where we sometimes shopped, no businesses anywhere lured in crowds with Sunday sales.
No football games filled stadiums, or TV screens. Our child play was quiet. It was just expected. Just the way it was.
One woman three doors up from us, sometimes she hung out laundry on the pulleyed rope strung over the alley… On Sunday! It was glanced askance, and frowned upon.
And lots of us (including me), neighbors and family, weren’t even Christians. Some might have checked “Christian” on forms asking “religion,” but didn’t know what that meant.
The inward faith was already dying then. But outer trappings remained—still blessing all the worldlings round about. Most everyone seemed to sense that. So those who loved the Lord’s Day got to spend it far less hindered. And the others got a rest, a break, refreshment for the week ahead.
Peer pressure is strong. And sometimes quite helpful. All this peer pressure made it almost natural to settle down, kick back, rest and refresh…
Many years later, once I knew Christ, those childhood sabbath remnants returned upon my mind, like treasure from the past unearthed. And I stopped. Stilled. Rested, read, and prayed. Breathed deep and smiled.
It was oxygen to my gasping! Single mommyhood alone, far from family, with jammed schedule and demanding job whose endless paperwork and expectations, piled high, made me feel like a cult recruit: overworked and over-exercised and deprived of sleep and allowed no time for sorting thoughts and thinking straight.
So I seized sabbath more than surrendered to it! If only to get my mental bearings and restore my weary body, I saw it as manna for survival.
It wasn’t too hard even then.
I didn’t have a church yet.
I was a single parent alone.
Yes, I had a bouncy toddler. But he knew that day was for quiet fun: Playing about the yard as I sat on the bench in tree shade. Or, in bad weather, coloring in patterns on big bubble letters spelling “God is great. God is good,” as I stilled.
When it got hard was later. After I found a good church and a good man and married into a good Christian family.
There Sabbath mostly meant go-to-church. And no one had to work Sundays, except in emergencies…
But big Sunday dinners were expected tradition.
And Sunday afternoons were often times for ambitious projects like canning big batches of jam or pickles.
And a friend from the good church pronounced my own private attempts to hold onto this gift of rest “legalistic.”
So I hungered.
And bit by bit, over slow time, it happened, took root and grew in fullness, if (even yet) imperfectly. And Husband, he grew into it himself, that weekly sabbath, and now thinks everyone should enjoy it…
Joining with Shelly and the others in the Surrendering to Sabbath Sisterhood.
(Would you like to join us? Click on the link and find out more.)
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11 thoughts on “Surrendering to Sabbath: What Makes it Hard, and How I Got to Where I Am Now”
Thank you for this beautiful reminder to take rest once a week as God set an example for us in the very beginning. And God rested! I usually don’t take an afternoon nap, but I lately after church and a noon mean, I have been hankering to take a quiet nap and simply rest. Thank you for sharing at “Tell Me a Story.”
The older I get the more I realize the beauty of the Sabbath!
Hazel, I love to get a Sunday nap, too. And the funny thing is, I may take no naps all week, but on Sunday afternoons my body says, “Nap!” Just a habit, or the way we’re designed? I don’t know, but suspect the latter! Happy napping!
Yes, Saleslady, me too!
The day of rest… I’ve broken all the rules regarding His day of rest and still struggle to sit still. We too respected the day of rest as kids, but it still haunts me. Only in His word and drawing nigh unto Him can I find rest.
Church bells still give me chills…
“Church bells still give me chills…”
Oooph! Floyd, that statement rocked me at first. But on further thought, I wasn’t so surprised. Maybe many people could say something like that.
What a shame that church bells, and sometimes the very idea of church, can stir up unpleasant thoughts and memories for some of us. My husband and I have had some unpleasant church experiences ourselves, and right now do not have a permanent home church. But Sabbath we treasure more than ever, with the idea that it is “not rules, but rest.”
How well you expressed the essence of Sabbath in your statement, “Only in His word and drawing nigh unto Him can I find rest”!
Yep. Your story is a truism. Fits into some of mine. Our world has so changed. However, one thing I said earlier, is that driving several days in my car to another part of the country is my Sabbath time. I can listen to worship music, sermons, listen to the Word, READ the Word at rest areas, etc. Few contacts during those times. It’s a “car retreat”. Gives me true God-time. So appreciated… and prepares me for the next phase of working/helping/serving/sharing. You are blessed and a blessing.
It has taken me so long to surrender too.
Your sentence – “So I seized sabbath more than surrendered to it” – I gasped when I read it thinking – Yes that sure is it.
I thought it was easier when I worked fulltime outside of the home. Sunday had better boundaries for me than now as a stay at home writer. One day seems just like the rest. But I am learning and sure is nice to know another blogger is walking the same path!
I know what you mean; I’ve done that “car retreat”/sabbath, too! And if the traffic’s light and I’m alone, it can be such a lovely, even restful, time with Him. There’s another blogger—I can’t remember who—who calls her car her monastery. Yep. I get that. It’s can be a great retreat site, and this can be a lovely kind of sabbath. So glad you popped over and left this comment!
Yes, Jean, at that time of my life, it was like seizing water after five or six days struggling through desert! Sounds funny now, but it wasn’t then! Now, like you, I don’t have a job or church duties to clearly delineate the days, and my weekdays and Sundays have grown more alike. It’s been a blessing that God has helped me have increasingly more close time with Him in the everyday. I guess that’s a kind of “entering His rest.” Baby steps of one little habit, then another, over many years. Still growing, and wishing I could have grown and gained wisdom earlier and faster, but, well, maybe these things only do develop over time. Glad to be have a fellow pilgrim on the path. Blessings to you!
Mmmm, Sabbath. Not something that happens very often in a student’s life, but something I need to pursue, I think. Thank you for sharing, Sylvia!
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