I grew up in a world that was black and white. There were certain things I could and couldn’t do, and no amount of cajoling would accomplish the impossible. There was a firm policy in place for us kids. We were seen and not heard most of the time, and when it was time for us to be heard, we knew to spout the party line or we would be lashed later. No, I didn’t grow up in war-torn Bosnia, or even in North Korea. And I didn’t grow up in a 1984-style dictatorship. I grew up Seventh-Day Adventist.
Now, before you think it was such a horrible childhood, and start wondering if you can retroactively call child protective services on my parents, I have to explain some things first. Religion is probably one of the few things people can still get fanatical about. That’s not saying most people are fanatical, but they can be, especially when the religion in question is predicated on a belief as strong as the seventh day.
“He then sanctified the seventh day as a day of rest for all men.”
In the Bible, god was said to have made the world in six days. After he saw that it was good, he rested on the seventh day, to admire his creation. He then sanctified the seventh day as a day of rest for all men. Now, somewhere along the way, throughout the generations, Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine claims people lost sight of the importance of resting on the seventh day. In fact, for some reason, the first day of the week became the go-to day for religious celebration in most churches. Seventh-Day Adventism maintains that this shift was never approved by god, and therefore it remains the holy and sanctified day.
I remember growing up in an SDA household where this rule was as strict as any other. From sundown Friday night until sundown on Saturday (sunset being the established rule of what constitutes a day, rather than midnight), it was a day of rest. Nothing could be done on that day that wasn’t specifically to glorify god and/or his creation. Therefore, in our household when the sun went down on Friday there was nothing secular to be said, done, watched, or listened to for an entire 24 hours. It was tough sometimes. Any TV programs that aired on Friday nights, or on Saturday mornings, I didn’t get to watch them. Any radio outside of the Christian stations was taboo. And any games we would normally play were on hold.
The hardest part was learning to be patient and trying to appreciate what god appreciated when he rested. Some Friday nights were spent playing charades using biblical figures. In our household, it was really easy to play this game because we all knew all the biblical figures inside and out. The really interesting charades games were when one of us would pick a lesser known character, or if a friend was spending the night and would play with us. Other Friday nights we would have a prayer circle where right at sundown we would go around in a circle, with each family member praying aloud whatever we felt in our hearts.
“But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord…”
Saturday mornings were easy, because we had to be up and out of the house early for Sabbath school, but the afternoons were once again tough, playing the patience game. Most weeks we would stay in church all day, even after the morning service. When we had other kids who were also staying it became extremely tough not to break the Sabbath. We were lucky there weren’t iPads, or cell phones, or any other pieces of electronic equipment to tempt us, but we would still run through the church chasing each other (another big no-no). It’s hard for kids to sit there and meditate for several hours in a row on the glory that is nature and creation. The easiest times were when a few adults would get together and take us kids on a trip outside. We would circle the neighborhood and check out everything that could even remotely be called natural (hard to do in North Philly, but we did it). Those times were fun because we weren’t restricted to the confines of a building, and the time seemed to go faster.
Keeping the Sabbath was difficult because of all the worldly pressures that always seem to impinge on our time, and I resented it because it seemed like everyone else could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. But now, looking back on it, I’m grateful for that time, for that escape from those same worldly pressures. When you take some time to appreciate nature, to really see it for what it is, magnificent, it really does take away a lot of the stress of daily life.
And on days like these, I miss it.