26 February 2010

O Day of Rest and Gladness

Some things you just don’t appreciate as a child. Some things you can only learn to appreciate once you become an adult. That is how I feel about the Sabbath. As a child, I won’t say I “hated” the Sabbath – but it certainly wasn’t my favorite day of the week. It was a day of “don’t”s and “can’t”s. You can’t watch TV, you can’t go outside and play with your friends, you don’t cook, you don’t listen to the radio, you don’t have no fun from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Yeah, as a child, the Sabbath was NOT the highlight of the week.

I fault my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the Adventist Church as a whole for my childhood outlook on church as a whole and on the Sabbath. They didn’t necessarily know any better – after all, that was the way they’d been brought up to view the Sabbath as well. When I was growing up, Friday nights lasted FOREVER because you couldn’t turn on the TV (and you know that is when all the BEST shows were on!). So to pass the long hours away, you joined the choir (even if you could not sing) so you could at least see your friends who were stuck in the same boat with you. On Sabbath morning, you missed out on all the cartoons because you were in church, where all the sermons were “hell fire and brimstone” teachings of how if you didn’t immediately give your life over to God, you were gonna be burnt up in hell’s fire with Satan and all his devilish angels and you betta make up your mind quick to follow Christ because His coming was right around the corner, yea, even at the door. It was enough to either scare you into heaven (well, at least for as long as the sermon lasted) or run you right outta the church, screaming for your life. The services lasted ALL day long – because you HAD to be at church for Sabbath School at 9:15, divine worship hour from 11a – 2p (if you were lucky and it wasn’t some “high day in Zion” – you might NEVER get home then!), then back at the church for MV or AYS one hour before sunset. It was an alllllll day event – full of long prayers, scary sermons, and old ladies pinching your cheeks. (or maybe that was just my experience).

So, as a teenager and young adult in my early 20s, I rebelled. Oh, I still went to church. I sang in the choir, served on various committees and in various departments (deeply engrained habits die hard), but as soon as the sun went down, I was out the door doing any and everything I thought I was big enough and bad enough to do. One foot in the church, one foot out in the world, and not really feeling comfortable in either place. Revivals in the church would lead me to the baptismal pool again and again, but no real conversion ever took place until an evangelist crusade run by our church called Net 1998, led by Pastor Dwight Nelson from Andrews University. He taught about the importance of having a “relationship” with God and suddenly, it clicked. I found out that as my friendship and love for Him grew, everything else seemed to fall into place. It wasn’t about doctrine – although doctrine is important. It wasn’t about what I “could” or “couldn’t” do as an Adventist Christian. It wasn’t about my friends or my family or the pastor or anyone else. It wasn’t even really about me. It was about Him and my relationship with Him. It is about His sacrifice for me and His unwavering, undying love for me. And once I realized THAT, the Sabbath (the time I come aside to meet with Him) took on a whole new meaning and richness.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been missteps along the way since 1998. I may proclaim I am His Favorite Child – that doesn’t mean I don’t mess up (all the time. It definitely does not mean that I always live up to what I know to be right, true and honest. It is a daily journey. I am still learning my way – even after more than forty years of wandering in the wilderness. But, I don’t approach the Sabbath hours with dread anymore. I now understand why my grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents would be happy to see the Sabbath hours coming. I know and understand why the lyrics to some hymns declare the Sabbath the “best” day of the week. And while I may not always be prepared and ready to greet my Friend when the hours approach, it is becoming more and more of a priority for that to be the reality each week.

Yep, there are some things you just don’t appreciate as a child. I am so glad that I am learning to appreciate the Sabbath as an adult.

Be blessed and have a great Sabbath.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

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