Before I had grown old enough for my lace-trimmed petticoat to be lengthened so as to drop past my underpants with three rows of laces across the back and lace around the legs, I was well aware of the abiding law of my childhood home:
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
There were several rules that anchored this Biblical commandment in the household ruled by my Daddy, a mighty man of God. First: Sunday School and church. No ifs, ands, or sickness. Daddy missed church only a few times after a small stroke. On the last Sunday of his life at the age of 78, it took every ounce of his mighty will to walk the church aisle and take a seat on the third row.
My sister tried to take his arm but he jerked it away and his weary green eyes warned her not to try that foolishness again. On Tuesday, two days later, he chose not to leave his bed, waiting instead for the angel he knew would arrive to escort him home to heaven. About 11 p.m., he saw something we couldn’t. His eyes shined, a feeble smile crossed his lips, he lifted his right arm and his fingers tightened around something as though he was grasping another hand.
With a final breath, he was on his way to cross the river Jordan.
Daddy had other rules for the Sabbath. No work. At all. Except cooking to feed the family and animals. This meant no house cleaning – I loved this — no grass cutting, car washing, no sewing, gardening, knitting.
The Sabbath was to worship the Lord and to bring “our minds in from the “pierceable things of this world”, a phrase that, as far as I know, belonged distinctly to Daddy. I think of those words often. Sometimes I force my thoughts from the “pierceable things” that worry my mind or create noise that distracts me from prayer and worship.
Until the last years of his life, Daddy didn’t gas his car or let Mama run into the grocery story to pick up a gallon of milk on Sunday. When he finished his farm chores on Saturday, he took the car and filled it with gas (Daddy’s car was seldom lower than three quarters of a tank and never more than a half tank).
“Do I need to pick up milk or anything at the store?” He’d asked Mama, pushing open the screen door.
When I was in college, we had returned home from church and were killing a few hours before returning to evening service – Mama and Daddy always stayed in their morning church clothes but I changed into play clothes. My parents were reading the sections of the newspapers while a ballgame or golf game played on TV.
Mama lowered the paper and saw that I was sitting on the sofa, knitting a sweater.
“You put that knittin’ down right now,” she demanded sternly. I was 20 and big enough to talk back.
“Mama, I’ve been to church and Sunday School this morning. I’m going to church tonight. I have served the Lord today. What’s wrong with knitting? I’m doing it inside. No one can see it.”
Another rule: you didn’t dishonor God by working outside so others could see your disrespect.
“Ralph,” Mama appealed to Daddy. He remained silent, though, and kept reading the paper.
And I kept knitting.
There is a scripture that talks about “the ox being in the ditch”, meaning that there are times – like with medical workers – that God understands.
However, I, like many, have stepped further and further away from Sunday as a day of rest. Too often, we use it to catch up on work.
It’s not just the Lord’s commandment, we’ve abused. It’s ourselves and our families.
Now, more than ever, we need time to bring our “minds in from the pierceable things of this world.”
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Let Me Tell You Something.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]