Each year, I read the Bible from beginning to end, and I try to read a different version every year. It’s partly a faith exercise, and partly a critical thinking one; it’s interesting to see how the translations differ. One point of agreement among all the translations I’ve read, however, is the commandment about keeping the Sabbath, and that the Lord commands us to have a day of rest and worship.
What is it about that particular one that gives me so much difficulty?
Don’t get me wrong; I like a lazy day as much as anyone. Somehow, though, it always seems that when Sunday rolls around, the day on which menial work is not to be done, there is always cleaning to be done, someone who needs a helping hand, a sick child, a sick husband. On a day that should be dedicated to rest and thanksgiving for all the Lord’s gifts, I somehow always end up with a million non-contemplative tasks on my agenda.
At the risk of being self-justificatory, work can be a form of prayer. An old high school friend of mine recently posted about the beauty of folding a fitted sheet. If, as I’m scrubbing the floor, applying stain remover to the vomit-soaked onesie, moving heavy things for someone who no longer has the strength to do so, I give silent thanks for the Lord who provided the roof over our heads, the four beautiful children who create huge messes, the strength to move the heavy things, the trust of the person who asked my help, I am worshiping.
And when I have that moment of quiet, when the tribe curls up in search of a story, I can read them their Arch books and be reminded of the wonders the Lord has wrought throughout human history. I can offer extra hugs and kisses as a hymn of praise to Him from whom all blessings flow. When the wee ones have decamped in search of toys or imaginary games, I can reflect on the trials frustrations of the week, and consider how I can respond to those temptations to wrath in a way that is more reflective of what Christ taught.
My Sabbaths are rarely peaceful in any outward sense. The challenge is to turn every word and deed into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. There are days — and this was one of them — when I allow the number of tasks at hand to turn my focus from the goodness and mercy of the Lord to the desire to duct tape the child who just woke the sleeping baby and the vomiting toddler. I am human, and therefore fallible, but these are opportunities the Lord has sent, also, because it is in those moments, when I have lost patience with a preschooler, that I can show her what humility looks like. I can embrace her, and ruffle her hair, and tell her that Mommy makes mistakes, too. I can teach her that Mommies need forgiveness from God and, sometimes, from their children, for making the wrong choice . . . like yelling at a little girl who might not have known that playing with her toys would cause such an uproar.
And I can ask her forgiveness. I can also let her hear me asking the Lord for His pardon for greeting His blessing with anger, instead of correcting her lovingly. That is the practical reason for a day of rest, I think; if I don’t take the time to rest and reflect, my temper gets short.
Teaching rarely involves a textbook.
Today’s prayer: Lord, when I am angry with Your blessings, please shut my mouth long enough for me to consider what the actual cause of my anger is. Help me respond to misbehavior with gentle teaching that will draw them closer to You, instead of angry words that will push them away from both of us. It is a difficult balance, Lord, teaching children lovingly while still making sure they have an absolute awareness of right and wrong. I don’t know how You are so patient with me, but would You please help me follow Your example more nearly?
And thank You, Lord, for Your blessings. Help me show You my thankfulness for the children with whom You have filled our house in every word and deed I share with them, and please help me show them that the commandment to keep Your Sabbath is, partly, a reminder to slow down and consider what brings us all closer to You.