I have a confession to make. I am a third generation Seventh-day Adventist ("SDA") Christian, but I haven't always enjoyed or liked being one. My maternal grandfather was a minister, my paternal grandfather might as well have been one. Both of my grandmothers were very involved in ministry and the expectations of "the saints" for me as part of their lineage was always great. It seemed like, as a child, I was always in the spotlight: "We need special music, let's get her to do it." "This week's children's story will be brought to us by..." Whenever my brother and I would visit my grandparents, whether in Connecticut or Florida or wherever else my grandparents were living, I was pushed up front. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing: it helped develop my character and gave me confidence, at a young age, that I could do any and everything I set my mind to do - or that I was asked to do. BUT, being "different" ["Why do you go to church on Saturday?" "Why don't you eat pork?" "Why don't you watch cartoons on Saturday morning?" "Why aren't your ears pierced?"] from my friends always made me uncomfortable. I didn't have the words or knowledge of what it all meant to explain it to my friends who were not Adventist.
As a young adult, I rebelled. Yeah, I was still going to church, still doing the welcome and children's story and singing in the choir - but I was also going to the clubs three or four nights out of the week (ah, to be that young again with THAT much energy!), putting clip-on earrings and pinching my earlobes to death!, and doing everything I thought I was big enough and bad enough to do. And while my spirit would be pricked sometimes, I didn't want anyone to tell me that I couldn't do what I wanted to do. After all, I was grown. I remember a New Years Eve weekend celebration where the plan for me and some of my friends was to "party all night" from Thursday night until Sunday night. Somehow, some way, we ended up at my best friend's parents' house for dinner and worship on Friday evening - you know, the start of the Sabbath - and the plan was to appease her parents by staying for worship, but we were hitting the club as soon as we left the house. Her father, a minister (of course!), prayed the LONGEST PRAYER I HAVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE! and called each of us by name and prayed for our souls and our salvation and ... well, you get the picture. Kinda killed the mood for going out for most of the group and I remember thinking, "Great, just great. Just what I needed...a guilt trip about doing what I wanted to do." Half of us bailed on going out and the other half went anyway. I will not admit to which group I belonged, but you can probably guess.
Anyway, for a long time in my 20s and 30s, I "resented" what I felt were the restrictions of being an Adventist. Without going into great detail here (I have future blogs to write, after all), I finally realized that being Adventist is not about "the rules" - the "dos" and the "don'ts" that had been beaten into my head as a child and teenager. As an adult, I have realized that the MOST IMPORTANT thing is my relationship with Christ. The framework of that relationship just happens to be the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist church - meaning, how I worship Him, how I live my life (well, most of the time - God is STILL working with me - Praise Him!) is based on Biblical principles taught by the SDA Church. That makes it a lot easier to explain why I "don't" do certain things. It is not a matter of what I am not "allowed" to do - it is a matter of, because of my relationship with Christ, what I CHOOSE not to do. Could I pierce my ears? Sure, I could. There are places in every mall that would be happy to take my money and do it for me. Could I eat a pork chop? Every day, three times a day if I wished. God is a God of free will - He wants me to make choices and decisions...that's why He gave me a brain, thoughts, feelings.
As I grow older, I have come to realize that, even within the Adventist Church, we all are just striving to serve the best we can. You have saints and devils sitting right next to each other every Sabbath (and depending on what's going on, I can be one or the other). But God loves us each...knows us each individually...died on Calvary's cross for each one of us individually. And that is a wonderful thing. Thank God for parents and grandparents who introduced me to Him at an early age - for giving me that foundation. But thank God that now I know Him for myself and I know He loves ME...personally...intimately...completely...warts, flaws and all.
As the Sabbath approaches, I pray that you find peace. I praise God for the time He built into the week where I can come aside, put down all my burdens and just rest in Him. I invite you to do the same, whether you are Adventist or not. Find some time to just commune with Him and experience the joy of that. No matter the challenges of the week past (or in your life as a whole), trust in Him.