All week long I wait for the Sabbath with such wistfulness that when it finally comes I realize that I longed for it too intensely. Now that it has finally arrived, I take it for granted and am aware of my confinement. I cannot do what I want to do. There are only so many activities or thoughts that are allowed to me on this holiest of days.
As the sun set I worried about the many details of keeping the Sabbath holy. I decided not to worry about the details of Sabbath keeping, but rather, to focus my attention on my relationship with Christ. Let Christ take care of how I keep the Sabbath holy.
I can worry about whether the house is ready for the Sabbath; it is not; it rarely is. I can worry about what I'm going to do when I am not in church and the Sabbath hours find me, once again, on my own with too many hours to experience while it is still Sabbath.
You have to admit, the Sabbath is--pardon the expression--the oddest of all the commandments. For example, today I thought that if I purposely delay my observance of the Sabbath by a minute or 10 or 60, have I invalidated the remaining 23 hours of Sabbath still in play? Unlike the commandment to not kill, steal, take God's name in vain, etc., once you break those commandments, you have broken the entire commandment and not just part of it. But the Sabbath, you see, is one long 24 hour experience. You are then able to break it or observe it once an hour, or perhaps more than that or less than that it you are careful. Or should one foolishly decide that since you've already broken it by not starting it on time or by breaking it half way into it, it is pointless to try to keep the rest of the hours that remain? Some may find the thought improper; others simply practical.
This can't be what God had in mind. Before the Sabbath begins I ask God to make me holy so I can keep his Sabbath holy. I also ask him to fill me with his Spirit and move me to keep his Sabbath holy, and for that matter, to keep all his commandments holy.
I don't know if I've ever really kept the Sabbath as one is supposed to keep it. I'm sure that even in the midst of no work, no play, church all day, or charitable visits to nursing homes, etc., I could very well have been breaking the Sabbath at the same time that I was, with good intent, trying to keep it.
Violations of all the other commandments are truly grotesque violations of some spiritual or basic human value, e.g., respect for one's God or one's fellow human being. But the Sabbath is a different concept all together.
I'm suddenly reminded of a church member who was so concerned about violating the sabbath by being awake during most of it--I guess he knew himself quite well--that he'd go to bed after church so as not to be conscious during the rest of the 7th-day Sabbath. Judging from the sister who told us about it, his intentions were sincere. However, by not engaging in more useful activities during the Sabbath, he was, in fact, breaking the Sabbath. Still, one does spend eight hours sleeping during the normal sleep period of the Sabbath, so why not sleep for the rest of the non-church part of it. I'm just trying to understand this brother's fear of breaking the Sabbath.
I used to feel that after I had spent half an hour or so reading the bible, I could open up my Sabbath post-vesper experience by engaging in cultural and spiritual activities like listening to symphonic music, or watching thoughtful DVDs about stimulating topics. Lately, I find myself unsure of these activities and usually spend the rest of the post-vesper Friday night Sabbath either reading the Spirit of Prophecy, reading the Bible until I get sleepy, or watching the local Christian network, Trinity Broadcasting Network. Sometimes that puts me to sleep, as well. I don't mean its content does, but rather the passiveness of these activities invites sleep quicker than a run in the park would. Of course, the park is deserted at this hour, except for hoodlums and such, so I use that example as an extreme example of a healthy, life-affirming activity on a Sabbath's Friday evening.
Or I can spend the entire Sabbath blogging, as I am now doing, and perhaps that will solve the problem for an hour or so.
Sometimes, though, PBS, has wonderful religion programs. Of course, most of them are pretty liberal, but it's religion, nevertheless. The History channel has a show on Friday nights about Extreme Survival in nature. That's so painful to watch, that I seldom fall asleep watching it.
Oh that God would have mercy on me and enable me to keep the Sabbath without being self-conscious about it. How wonderful if I could offer a Sabbath full of devotion by keeping the Sabbath enjoyably, and finally, lovingly. Amen.