by Teresa McBean
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, and sea, and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” —Exodus 20:8-11
I am almost old enough to remember boredom. In the South, back in the day, every kid was bored on Sunday. The community shut down, even the gas stations. (Can you imagine planning long trips around the Sabbath?) I let boredom slip away decades ago and replaced it with his little friend, “tired.” Of course, I didn’t understand any of this until I began my own Sabbath practice, and maybe that’s the point of waking up: there’s a lot you don’t notice when you’re spiritually sleepy! When I lost boredom as my faithful companion and teacher, I diminished my bandwidth for noticing the holy and profound.
My eighty-plus-year-old father is not tired. Last weekend he left his home in Atlanta, Georgia on his Gold Wing motorcycle and drove seven hours to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a bikers’ weekend. My father, coming to faith later in life, has learned how to embrace the Sabbath.
My father isn’t much of a sermonizer. When you wait until you’re almost seventy years old to go to church, you have fewer opportunities to be ruined by the sermons. However, I have found God using him to wake me, his pastor-daughter, up. This, I suspect, will be the greatest gift my father ever gives me.
Of course he went to church growing up—he is from the Old South! But at home, it was hard to find holiness. Once he began making his own rules, he left church behind, and I cannot judge him for this. He’s a brilliant man, and I imagine he was an intuitive and alert child. How could he make sense of the Sabbath practiced in a home of favoritism, infidelity, and bitterness? During my childhood years, my father lived a congruent life. No Sabbath. No rest. No mention of holiness. The father I grew up with was successful. And then, one day, he no longer cared about success, and that’s when life got interesting.
I didn’t get a fancy job and go to work via private jet. I didn’t acquire airplanes and a lot of cool motorized toys. I am not overly fond of country clubs and golfing. I’ve never built an airplane in my garage. I don’t know how to write messages in the sky. (All of this and more my father has done.) Superficially, my dad and I are nothing alike.
But I am productive, for God’s sake. (Read that sentence with a tinge of sarcasm and you’ve caught my meaning.) And at the end of the day, although we chose different venues that resulted in different strategic plans, I am in many ways my father’s daughter—I get stuff done.
But productive is the enemy of the Sabbath, and it sure as heck is the antithesis of holiness, without which spiritual wakefulness is impossible. All those years without a Sabbath eventually resulted in my dad collapsing within himself. He and my mom retired early to Atlanta, Georgia, and for some unexplainable reason, they started attending church. One day, a couple years into this radically different life, my dad called me with an amazing story:
“T, last night I was getting ready for bed and asking the Lord to forgive me for my sins—you know it’s a long list—I wasn’t asleep, and, this wasn’t a dream, but the Lord came to me in a vision . . . ” (My dad goes on to describe Him in great detail, which I cannot repeat with accuracy, so I won’t repeat it at all). “I was scared, I can tell you that. I tried to reach my hand out to Him . . . to apologize in person, but He reached His hand out first! He touched me on the chest and said, ‘Bob, you’re forgiven. Don’t bring this up again.’ He was so gentle, so kind. But I got the message. I’m not going to bother Him with my past anymore.”
“Wow,” I said, resenting almost immediately a private visit from Jesus to my dad when I was up here in Richmond, Virginia doing the Lord’s work almost single-handedly! “What did Mom say?”
“Aw, she just told me she was tired and to stop all that talking.” I could feel him smiling. Forgiveness-received introduced my dad to holiness-practice and regular Sabbath. After all, he has nothing to atone for. Nothing else needs achieving. He’s done, in a good way.
For decades I have observed my dad almost lose his life—his abundant, full, loving life—to toys and trinkets that never filled him with light. I watched my dad, once dead, become restored. My dad is still the man who drives me crazy. I love him, but I continue to strongly disagree with many of his worldviews and decisions. Jesus forgave him, but He didn’t perform a lobotomy! But even the most productive daughter has eyes to see that something is different: my father is free. He believes in practicing the Sabbath and holiness even though he’ll never exegete a passage of Scripture or discuss hermeneutics.
My own stubborn resistance to Sabbath has made me slow to catch on. But as I watch my father love my mother, who is in failing health, I find myself unwilling to continue on my own faith journey without stopping to practice Sabbath and receive holiness. I take a day of Sabbath. I don’t hop on a Gold Wing, but I do dust off my motorized bicycle and take it for a spin in my neighborhood. When my son visits for a week, I cease my labors and sit on the patio with him. This is holy. I listen more than I talk, which is hard but necessary in order to practice Sabbath. I go for a run and try not to beat my fastest time. In fact, some days I dilly dally, taking pictures and stopping to look for a lost dog on behalf of a Awakening Through Rest 153 young man who may not have deserved the favor, but I did it anyway.
I am less tired. I am less productive. My Father—in every sense of the word—is waking me up to old ways of seeing that are new to me. My Fathers remind me that I have nothing to prove, no performance to deliver. But, by God, I am awake. And it is a gift.
Source: Recovering Faith: Words for the Way. Volume 1 [Kelly Hall, ed]