There is this pervasive, and perverse, belief in Christian communities that one of the hallmarks of a true believer is the tendency to get up early– really early, say 5 a.m. or 4:30.
Otherwise, you’re a sluggard, the Proverbs one.
This verse (Proverbs 6:9 if you promise not to slap someone with it) is enough to quash those mutinous insurrectionists who mildly observe that weekly church services start a little early, especially for families with kids who need to get up, rouse the offspring, feed the nestlings, dress everyone to the nines, stuff them in the vehicle and arrive, on time, and in a state of worshipful adoration.
After all, if you got up at 5, you’d have hours enough and more for a leisurely breakfast and “quiet time,” which, incidentally, sounds like something we impose on pre-schoolers.
Years ago, when the progeny was young and we did the Sunday morning rush, I commented to an older woman on how stressful this was.
“I never had a problem with it,” she stared me down. “I just prepared everything the night before and got up early. God is important to me.”
I got the message: her God is not important to me. True, actually. I’m looking for the real one.
As the years went by, we became accustomed to being the appostates who always arrived late, didn’t stay for Sunday School, and never participated in communal evening groups, simply because we were determined to not only observe, but to enjoy, the Sabbath day of rest. And yes, I know we’re not Jewish and we observed the day on Sunday not Saturday, but the day’s made for us and not us for the day, and what mattered to us was the “rest” part.
Interestingly, as you read through the Old Testament and what it says about the Sabbath, “worship service” and everything associated with it does not come into factor. Rather, the emphasis was on God’s gift to a people who worked, and worked hard, six days a week, with the Sabbath being a welcome, and literal, day of rest.
You didn’t cook. You didn’t milk the animals, plow the fields, answer e-mail messages from the office or get a few hours in on the project that should take three weeks to complete but was allotted eight days. You also did not feel obliged to spend your morning preparing your household to a state of perfection and rushing out the door in time to catch the first two songs preceding the morning announcements (which are a verbal repetition of the information printed in the bulletin you were handed as you whooshed through the portals).
Judaism101 describes the Sabbath as “a day of great joy eagerly awaited throughout the week, a time when we can set aside all of our weekday concerns and devote ourselves to higher pursuits.”
This is hardly how we felt, coming home after the weekly rush; coming down from an artificial environment of happy faces masking tired, discouraged people; sensing that, somehow, we just weren’t “Christian” enough. We certainly slept in past 4:30 a.m. on a regular, chronic basis.
Whatever joy we were supposed to have found in the event it took so much time and stress to prepare for, we never did.
Eventually, we freed ourselves from the tyranny, one by one releasing the ropes mooring us to the dock, setting out on an unexpected and unsought for journey as independent Christians who no longer attend church — not because we’re dissident provacateurs, but because we’re patient people who gave, and gave in, and compromised to the demands of the institution to the point that, like Popeye, we stood all we could and we couldn’t stoods no more.
And now, on the Sabbath, we rest, set aside our weekday concerns, and devote ourselves to the pursuit of higher things.
Finally, it is a day of joy.
The images in this blog are paintings by Steve Henderson, the Norwegian Artist. Steve sells his work in both original and signed limited edition print form, both on the website, www.SteveHendersonFineArt.com and on The Norwegian Artist, a newly opened Etsy store.
Because Steve believes in getting real art in the homes of real people, he and his manager wife, Carolyn (Middle Aged Plague) set up customized, interest-free payment plans for interested buyers. If you see something that you like, but don’t know how to go about paying for it, Contact Steve and Carolyn and they will work with you.