“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” ~Genesis 2:2
For the longest time I thought this was what we were supposed to do, the idea that with God as a model we were to emulate his day of rest. You can’t blame me for feeling this way. I did grow up in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which believes precisely that. “God rested on the seventh day, so we should rest on the seventh day.” It was set in stone, like the “1892” carved into the side of the church building I practically grew up in, hollowed into the bones of my soul.
I believed that, because of some ancient tradition, all the Sunday churches were doing it wrong, that God wanted us to celebrate his creation of the world by taking the final day of the week off from labors.
But there’s often a difference between what is understood and what is actually practiced. We often fall into the margins where that is concerned, somehow missing the irony of the choices we often make. Because Saturday mornings in my household were anything but restful. We were up at the crack of dawn so that all of us could get cleaned up and into fancy church clothes. The time spent “getting ready for God” took longer than any regular weekday morning ministrations did. Those mornings were generally a hustle and bustle atmosphere that had nothing to do with rest.
Then it was off to church where appearances very much mattered. A scuff on a black church shoe could be gossiped about all day. A wrinkle in one pleat of a dress could be the topic of conversation for weeks. So we had to paint smiles on our faces, to practice our conversation before they happened, to endure the kisses of ancient ladies who smelled like moth balls, because that is what we did. From the moment we walked into the edifice we had to be “on,” a state of perpetually being front and center, which was quite the opposite of restful.
All day it was this way, every seventh day of the week, so that eventually it became obvious to everyone involved that we weren’t resting, that we weren’t reflecting on the goodness of God over that past week. We were putting on a show to rival any on Broadway, and the grind of always performing wore on me more than I think I even realized at the time. All I knew was that there was no end in sight, no actual Sabbath to save me from the grind of those seventh day marathons.
So I quit. And no, it wasn’t all about the idea of actually resting. No, it wasn’t the grind that wore me down. It wasn’t even the fake people and their unrecognized pretensions. What really drove me to run screaming from the one religion I had ever known was how it all made me feel about myself, and about a God who would condone such a display week after week. I was torn into so many pieces over the decision, but I knew I couldn’t keep going to a place that wasn’t about communing with God, that was more concerned with what I called “the art of fellowship.”
Funnily enough, now I do rest on Saturdays, for the most part anyway. I get up whenever I’d like (or whenever the kids come storming in and throw back the shades). I enjoy my family instead of hustling into the shower to put on my face, then squeezing myself into uncomfortable clothes to look “presentable” to those in the congregation. Saturdays are about resting now from a long week of working two jobs and ferrying the kids from one place to another in a seemingly endless loop. Saturdays are about a change of pace, a chance to commune with my own spirit.
Even God rested. If there’s anyone who would understand then it’s him. And I’m secure in that, because I feel like I can hear his voice more clearly than I ever could through the chaos and cacophony of what the church considers rest.
Growing Up Seventh-Day Adventist Archive