I didn’t mean to. Who does? But when I looked through them recently Commandment Number Four jumped right off the page:
Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it (Exodus 20:9-11).
For the Jews, the Sabbath day has always been Saturday. Christians adopted Sunday—the day of the Lord’s resurrection—as their Sabbath. But for me, for more than twenty years now, it’s been Thursday.
Yes, Thursday. I can’t very well take Sundays off, and Saturdays are when I write my sermons. That leaves the five other days of the week. When I went to my first full-time pastorate my new secretary, Glenda Spivey, asked, “When will you take your day off?” “My day off?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, firmly. Her husband was a pastor. He had suffered two heart attacks. She wasn’t going to let that happen to me if she could help it. “Um, Thursday?” I said.
And Thursday it was.
Glenda made sure I didn’t come to work on Thursday. If I stopped by the office, even to pick up a book I had left behind, she would glare at me and growl. She was a great secretary, and partly or perhaps mostly because of her I learned the discipline of Sabbath rest. I got to the point where, when I went home on Wednesday night, I would feel a load slip off my shoulders knowing that the next day was mine. I got into the rhythm of the Sabbath so completely that my body, my mind, my soul anticipated it, and shifted into it quickly and easily when the time came.
When I came to Richmond I kept up the practice. On my new calendar I wrote “Previous Commitment” on every Thursday, so that when someone called to ask if I could do something on that day I could look at my calendar and say, honestly, “I have a previous commitment.”
I kept the Sabbath religiously.
Until we started our year-long, every-member mission trip: KOH2RVA. Almost from the beginning there were opportunities to being the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, on Thursdays that I didn’t feel I could pass up. And so I broke the Fourth Commandment—just a little bit here and there—until there wasn’t much left of it, until Thursday was just another day on the calendar, wide open to whatever someone else wanted to schedule. It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve figured out what was missing from my life, and what was missing was the rhythm of Sabbath rest.
I’ve been feeling a weariness in my bones that won’t be healed by working harder and sleeping less. It will only be healed by remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy, that is—keeping it “different,” that is—keeping it.
I would recommend it to everyone, and if I were God, I would command it.
I write all this to let you know I won’t be posting anything on my blog today because it’s Thursday, my Sabbath day, and I’m keeping it. So, don’t even go to my blog today. Don’t even look for a post. You won’t find it…
I did it again.