"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 to the Lord your God."--Exodus 20:8-10a Last month, I read Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull. One of the chapters that struck me was entitled "Training Children to Sabbath Observance." I don't know about your family, but Sunday is probably the most busy day for our family. As a pastor, my husband doesn't go to church to rest but to work. Yesterday, he had to be up early so he could get to a 6:30 a.m. meeting before the service at 8:00! No, Sunday is not really a Sabbath for us.
But how about you? Do you have a day for Sabbath in your week? Or is every day pretty much the same? Or do you sometimes feel like I do, that I look forward to Monday so I can get a break from the weekend!
Even before I began reading Trumbull's book, I already had been thinking about how we as a family can work to create a Sabbath. God tells us to "remember the Sabbath day," which implies that we can forget! (I am so guilty about this!) What I am learning is that it is better to start doing something rather than wait for the perfect circumstances before practicing this discipline.
If we look in Scripture, the Sabbath for the Jewish people began the night before. Instead of starting the Sabbath with worship, they started it with a family meal and sleep! What a novel idea! How many times I've worn myself out the night before and could barely keep my eyes open and focused for the service!
One way that our family has tried to start observing the Sabbath was by having a special meal together, just as the Jews did. When I plan my meals, I try to do something special for our Saturday night dinner. Nothing gourmet or fancy. Sometimes we go out (though that is getting expensive!). Sometimes we just get dessert. So even though we have a busy day on Sunday, at least we have started preparing ourselves the night before.
Sometimes we invite another family to join us for dinner. Instead of looking at it as entertaining, we have looked at it as a way to bless another family with the gift of rest. We try to eat earlier so that the other family can get home at a decent time and get ready for church the next day too. Paper plates and disposable tableware help a lot! (After all, we're not supposed to work, right?)
Another way that we have tried to make the Sabbath a special day is to make it a bit different than the other days. When Janna was younger, we used to have a special toy that she only got to play with on Sundays. (I forgot to do that with Matthew, but I think I'll need to start doing that for Jonathan!)
Another way we can make the Sabbath distinctive is to dress differently. This is not so that we look good before others in our "Sunday best" but in doing so, I am letting the Lord know that He is worth the extra effort to put on makeup and a nicer (make that clean!) outfit. In Exodus 19, when God tells Moses that He is going to speak to the people at Mt. Sinai, He tells them to consecrate themselves by washing their clothes (vs. 10). Even though this passage isn't about the Sabbath per se, the principle is clothing ourselves as a means of preparation to meet with the Lord. Maybe it might seem like stretching the point, but He did want them to be clean.
Again, I don't want to split hairs on this topic. Like I said yesterday, let's not be legalistic about time, dress, etc. When my kids complain and say, "Why can't I wear my t-shirts today?" I count it as an opportunity to share with them that the reason why we dress up (and for our church, that may mean a collared shirt for the boys and a dressier shirt with jeans for Janna. She still insists on wearing her flip-flops though!). If they need something more casual after church, we just pack any change of clothing the night before. Sure, it's a hassle and takes some time, but for me, the unspoken lesson that is taught is more important than the convenience.
Trumbull, in his book, closes this particular topic with these words:
"The difference is not in the children, but in the mode of their training, when in one home the Sabbath is welcomed and in another home it is dreaded by the little ones. Such a difference ought not to exist. By one means or another, or by one means and another, all children ought to be trained to find the Lord's day a delight in the Lord's service; and parents ought to see to it that their children, if not others, are thus trained. It can be so; it should be so."