I often get asked how I juggle being a Sabbath keeper while being married to someone who isn’t. Oddly enough, I’ve started to find that I like it better this way. I can’t say that it’s something that would work the same for everyone. But I feel that in my circumstances it’s God’s particular grace to me. While Marc would make the worst possible legalist under any circumstance, he’s still a natural Sabbath keeper. In other words, if Jesus gave him seven days off instead of one, he’d happily take them. I’m the one with the problem. So it’s on Saturday that the stars align for once and our lives start to match. Instead of asking, “Boy, can we refinish the kitchen floor?” I ask, “Do you want to take the kids to Fort Boise and go on a hike?” In which case he usually looks at me funny and says, “You mean walk…like with your legs?” Yes, stranger things have happened.
I like to think that our resultant laissez faire approach to Sabbath helps strip away the man-made trappings that so easily build up around it. Just like the Jews, if you give us an inch, we’ll take a mile. I grew up Seventh Day Adventist, and while I personally never found it overbearing or legalistic, you still can’t escape the distinctive flavors that build up in a specific community. Do you go to the post office on Saturday? Did you remember to gas up your car on Friday? Is it okay to go swimming, or are you just going to have too much fun? In the end, all of these questions seem to get answered more by what the other people in your circle deem okay, rather than your conscience before the commandment itself. I see this even in Sunday keeping churches where Sabbatarianism is becoming more popular. People begin to pride themselves on where they draw their lines and Sabbath living becomes kind of a high water mark of holiness. In which case, I appreciate the minimalist route I’ve had to follow over the years. Sabbath keeping has become more like breathing than trying. As, not yet another a way to be holy, but a way to be human. A design feature given to the creature from the Creator.
Since we go to church as a family on Sunday, our Saturdays are left to us wide open. Not only is there no rush, but there are also no external expectations for what “Sabbath” means. It is something we give to our children as a gift, no strings attached. It was made for them. As the commandment itself is rather simple; don’t work, don’t buy, remember. I can’t say we Sabbath perfectly, but I like to see it alive and well in our family, adding it’s rhythm and perspective. For me Sabbath means no projects, no yard sales, no guilt for a not clean house, and time to devote to something that would otherwise be crowded out. To read, or comb through a book list, write a blog post, visit the rose gardens, or hide somewhere with an iced tea. For Marc, it mostly means that I’m not going to nag him. He rather peaceably goes about his business, takes a nap, watches soccer, works in his garden, and escorts the kids on some wild adventure. But the kids go all out. They know they don’t have to do school or chores, and that the sky is the limit for whatever scheme they are planning. On any other day we would say no, but this is the day we say yes. And I think that’s what Jesus was trying to get through to us uptight adults. This is a gift, this is a joy, this is for you. The children holler in delight and run with it. While we adults eye the wrapping paper suspiciously and inquire about the manual.
Personally, I can’t say I wouldn’t take more if it was given to me. I would love Sabbath dinners, traditions, candles, funny bread that I braid, and patriarchal blessings. Not to mention a Menorah (cuz I have one.) I’m sooo game. Which is why I’ve been constantly surprised by how sufficient our meager obedience has been, and how blessed I have been by my husband’s mitigating presence in my overly zealous life. Instead of being something that bears down on us with high expectations, the Sabbath has started presenting itself as a comfortable, well worn hammock. One that you can’t help but fall into at the end of the week. The minimal hedge that’s around it doesn’t seem to be there to make it more grand or righteous, only to make it there at all. So when you fall into it you don’t hit the dirt. Like, “Don’t read more into this than you need to kids. I just didn’t want you to crack your head on any rocks.”
I find that having it there is what I need. I don’t need the glamour of it, or all that it has to offer, I just need it. I guess, for me, I have fallen in love with the simplicity of the Sabbath. Not to say that it can’t be better, or that there can’t be more, but that this is enough. Perhaps, like with the gospel, the Sabbath is not something you do, it is something you accept. It’s not something you work towards and eventually attain, it’s something that rolls around whether you like it or not. No strings attached.
My hope is that my children will grow up loving the Sabbath, while not ever thinking of it in terms of an obligation or a rule. But as a gift. I love how they accept the Sabbath now as children, with delight. I think Sabbaths were historically the hardest on children, like with Almanzo Wilder. Children were pressed into our mold, into our ideas. I kind of like the prospect of it being switched around. When we let go of our expectations and become like children ourselves. “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I also love the simplicity of the seventh-day Sabbath. It has face value. I’m not up for relying on tradition and overly energetic hermeneutics. It’s not very relaxing. Personally, I couldn’t find rest while playing day hockey with the fourth commandment anyways. I want to know what it says and do what it says. End of story. Even Marc seems happy to let the children stake their claim there. “If you want to plead fourth commandment on Saturday, I’m not going to stop you. Because I’m not going to be the one who is going to take it up with Jesus.” That would be awkward. I don’t think everybody has to agree with me on the seventh-day Sabbath, but on the other hand, I do think when someone chooses to take refuge in the fourth commandment, it’s a right no one else has the right to mess with. For me, the burden of proof is one that lies in the other camp. I just think it’s too far to walk.
We did something last Saturday that was a little different. We let the older kids explore the creek bottom by themselves while we took the trail that looped around them. As the boys have informed us, there is nothing so tedious as having to stay on a trail. Well fine.
When we made it back to the car we found that they didn’t make it very far at all. The world is so huge when you’re little, that exploring is surprisingly economic.
On the way home they were already making plans for next week. It’s especially cute how they have Anne of Green Gable style names for all of their secret places. Which do sound much romantic than “dried up canal bed,” or “homeless shelter under overpass.” Poor little city kids. They don’t know what they’re missing.