Sabbath Revisited: How Our Family Returned to a Traditional Sabbath Observance
by Robbin Lewis | 30 August 2019 |
I grew up in a fairly strict Adventist home. My parents were, if nothing else, consistent. We all knew the rules. Prepare your clothes on Thursday night for church. Prepare your food for Sabbath on “preparation-day Friday”—the goal was to have everything done before sunset.
And of course, we would never go to a restaurant on Sabbath. No buying or selling on this sacred day.
I lived by these rules. I didn’t always like them, but I respected my parents for their consistency. I knew where the line was, and I knew not to cross it.
Fast forward. As a young adult I went away to school, and suddenly the line seemed to be a movable one. Although I was taught to attend Sabbath School and church every Sabbath, when I went away to college I began flexing my adult wings. I found myself sleeping in and rationalizing that I was tired.
And you know, God understood!
As a young working Mom I laid down Sabbath rules and standards for my home and young family. Yet I struggled with hitting the goal. Our lives were complicated and cluttered with obligations. I began to rationalize more frequently. I would say to myself, well, it’s ok because I didn’t realize a cousin twice removed would be visiting from out of state, so I had to run and get groceries to add to my Sabbath meal.
And still, God understood.
My parents’ faith was the cornerstone of my faith and exactly what I wanted to give to my young family. But the modern, enlightened Christian I felt I was becoming broke the “begat” chain. I didn’t see the breach—until I did.
At our church, there were other young families striving to live a life in Christ, and they became our friends. We had very good moments of fellowship, but they too began to be comfortable with a nuanced Sabbath commitment. We found ourselves breaking bread together less and less in our homes on Sabbath, and more and more eating out at restaurants. We began to go out on Friday nights, too. You know, you work and who has the time to fix a meal on Friday night? After all, you have to get up early for Sabbath School, and you want to feed the kids and blah, blah, blah.
That line was no longer a solid line. Just a little broken one.
The night we entertained a prospective physician and his family interested in joining my husband’s practice, on a Friday night, at a restaurant, was when the line buckled. We took our family and we thought it would have no effect on them. Years later, I found out, our willingness to skirt the line did have an effect.
My husband and I began to voice to each other our uncomfortableness. We prayed for strength and courage to take a stand at the next opportunity. We didn’t discuss it with our children—remember, we thought they were oblivious to our missteps.
God promises to give everyone a chance to represent Him, and our moment came.
Holding the Line
One Sabbath, after church, our group of friends gathered, discussing where to go eat. I remember both my husband and I looked at each other, recognizing that God was waiting to hear our answer.
I don’t remember which one of us spoke first, but it was made known that we were not going to go with them to eat at the restaurant. I vaguely remember saying that we had been wrestling with something and we decided we would no longer eat out on the Sabbath. There was a quiet awkward pause.
To their credit, our friends did not make a big deal about it. These were friends that we had Friday night Bible studies with, where we invited local pastors to address specific topics of Adventist doctrine/beliefs that we as young adults wanted to better understand. Ironically, we had not yet discussed what the Sabbath meant and/or standards of Sabbath keeping.
How we got to the point of even going out on Friday night and/or Sabbath, I don’t know. I don’t even know if our friends were struggling with the same feelings. Was it also a missed opportunity on our part? To my recollection, we never broached that subject with our friends and perhaps we should have. Perhaps we should have been willing to share why we felt uncomfortable and what God’s plan was for the Sabbath.
But that day, we went home and they went out to eat. They were respectful of our stand and did not include or require us to join them at future Sabbath restaurant dining.
A Tool for Relationship
The Sabbath is an amazing gift from God. But we too rarely honor its value. We all have interpreted the specific instructions from Him to suit our needs. We treat it like a package from IKEA: some of us try to use it differently than intended and most of us don’t read the instructions.
I see the Sabbath as one of the instructions for maintaining a relationship with our Savior. Why would you disregard or alter those instructions? If you were to read a book on ten tips for a healthy relationship, and on that list, the author states as number one that you must give undivided attention to the growth and maintenance of a healthy relationship, you would probably not disagree. What if the author says that you must be willing to designate a specific day and time to invest in that relationship? And on that date, no other activity would be allowed except connecting with each other? No movie, no bowling, no distractions. Like a date night, focused on building and improving the relationship. Imagine that!
Author Ty Gibson says that “God is a God of relationship. So He set aside a period of time, a weekly reminder if you will, where we can draw close to Him–like an appointment. It’s called the Sabbath.”
Ty goes on to say, “We are relational beings—we long for connections.” He tells of how on a visit to Thailand, the news and talk shows were discussing how to manage what Thailand was calling “an epidemic of texting”—which seemed to Ty really “an epidemic of connecting.” He asks, “What is the most important vital thing in life?” Most folks, he says, will say relationships—not money, not profession, not popularity.
The Sabbath has the unique distinction of being a weekly memorial for us to dwell in God’s presence without interruption.
The word dwell is significant to the ultimate Sabbath experience. Be prepared to linger, be prepared to be focused for a certain interval (sunset to sundown), be prepared to reside in His goodness.
The word service is significant to the ultimate Sabbath experience. You must be willing to pray, to feed, to share the Good News. There should not be a Sabbath where you have spent time with someone but not given of yourself.
It should not be a time of judgmental fellowship. God does not want to sit at the table hearing gossip from one of His children about another of His children. If you mention the sorrows of one of His children, let it be only in prayer. He has given us six days to fellowship about other topics: give Him His requested time. Ask God every Sabbath to bring to you someone to serve and save. He will honor that request.
The ultimate Sabbath experience includes family. Consistent attendance in worship services is a building block to your family’s spiritual foundation. This is not new. This is just an activity that has been forgotten.
And last but not least, proper preparation for the big date. Remember when you were young, and someone asked you on a date? You carved out time to shop for that special shirt or dress or you went through your closet and found just the right outfit to wear. The time you allot to preparation denotes how significant you view the date.
What do you want to talk about with God? Write out a list. Be intentional in your dialogue. He is just as excited to meet with you. Be prepared to receive His input.
The scriptures, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, still tell us the benefits of Sabbath keeping.
- In Genesis 2:7 we read of the story of Creation. His last work was the creation of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be placed on our eternal calendar—a reminder that on the 7th day we have a “forever” appointment with Him.
- In His wisdom, God knew how busy we would get. We were to use the Sabbath as a moment of refreshing for times of service.
- In Exodus 16:24-31, He provided manna for the children of Israel with special Sabbath instructions for the gathering of the blessing.
- Exodus 20:8 – He gave us the blueprint for Sabbath behavior. He added gentle reminders throughout Scripture, lest we forget the best practices in Sabbath keeping.
- In Luke 14, when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into breaking their rules for keeping the Sabbath, Jesus explained how important it was that discernment and compassion played a role in sacred observance.
The Ox in the Pit
We are to use the Sabbath as a day of rest, but if your fellow man needs healing, heal him. If your animal is in a pit, save him. Compassion and emergency should always be mitigating factors in the observance of the Sabbath.
It is not earth-shattering news, it is basic Adventist 1.0 that has been pushed aside for the shiny new techy toy.
Have I had moments where I had to decide again whether to eat out on Sabbath, and did I do so? Yes. Did they all pass the “ox in a pit” sniff test? No. But there are fewer of those moments, and I feel more confident about my decisions.
I felt compelled to talk about this topic in 2019 because the Sabbath and proper observance matters to me. You will see a significant change in your connection experience with the Savior if you revisit what you already know!
Robbin Anderson Lewis attended Union College and graduated from Loma Linda University. She and her husband have been married for 40 years, and have three children and five grandchildren. She works as the office manager in her husband’s medical practice. In 2012 Robbin was diagnosed and treated for an aggressive form of breast cancer, and has since tried to encourage other women by sharing her experience and testimony. She is active in the Seventh-day Adventist church as a singer, writer, and event planner.