Sunday, December 21, 2008

Memories of a Reluctant Sabbath-keeper


This is a difficult post to write because it stirs up old memories and emotions I've fought all my life to put behind me.

I've been thinking how tender was my heart toward God when I was a five year old, tender and enthusiastic. It doesn't take much for a child to feel loved; it doesn't take much to destroy that sense of being loved, of being the apple of someone's eye.

My stepdad brought Adventism into my life, and with it many things which wounded but--not quite--destroyed my spirit. What strange religion was this, what desert or wilderness whose terrain was as unfamiliar to me as my stepdad's constant anger and preverse love of sadistically mocking me every time I turned around?

There had been no training for this, for this wasteland of caustic remarks and severe punishments for petty (or no) reasons. When the Sabbath rolled around my heart sank, for I had so many mixed feelings about this day, this set-apart day deemed holy by the Adventist Church. (It's significant that I express it in this way, rather than stating it was deemed holy by Jesus.)

The Sabbath could mean just about anything, in our home at least. One week we were forbidden to spend our allowance, play with friends or watch TV. Instead we were ordered to spend the day in our rooms, reading the Bible. Now, I had a love of God which caused me, at the age of 6, to spend all of the Green Stamps my daddy had saved up for me, on a beautiful white Bible. Scripture wasn't repugnant to me. I loved its sometimes lyrical, poetic writing, loved so much more about it than I disliked. But to be forced to read Scripture all day long, as if I and my half-siblings were sinners of the highest magnitude, while the stepdad lollygagged on the couch in his Fruit-of-the-Looms, watching sports: well, this definitely rubbed me the wrong way. It insulted my strong sense of justice, and oftentimes I rebelled by not opening my Bible at all unless I heard approaching footsteps come to check on me.

Other weeks we kids were allowed to walk to the store, play with friends, talk on the phone--pretty much what we did on all the other ordinary days. This confused me, much as I liked being able to play on the Sabbath like all the "normal" (meaning non-Adventist) kids on my block. Also confusing was the fact that my stepdad didn't attend church, smoked, cussed, and did other things I won't go into now. We weren't the typical veggie-links eating Adventist clan, not by a long shot. Something deep within me was troubled by the huge gap between what the church taught about Adventism and what really took place within the walls of our middle-class suburban walls.

This I remember: the tortuously drawn out Sabbaths in the summer time as I lay on my bed listening to the sounds wafting through my open window of my friends hooting and hollering outdoors, doing all the things I should be doing as well if only my stepdad was some kind of fair, some kind of decent--some kind of
human. I fretted and silently fumed; jiggled my foot in impatience, glared at my shut Bible, temporarily hating it as if it were the cause of every injustice in my life.

The Sabbath was by turns a holy, holy day (maybe even holier than God himself, it seemed), and a joke with no punch line. I couldn't make heads or tails of it. My mother steadfastly refused to explain anything to me, or to intervene on my behalf to the stepdad. This left me with no information, no means of processing what all of this meant. The Sabbath wasn't the only bane of my existence, there was also Ellen White and her strict, no-nonsense teachings, and the list of thou-shalt-nots which I could never remember. My head ached just trying to keep track of everything.

Life hadn't always been this hard! Why, once upon a time I loved going to church (Sunday School it was called.) My enthusiasm for God knew no bounds; my love for Him shone nearly as bright as the noonday sun. Something had eclipsed my view of God, warping His features so that now I dare not look Him in the eye (so to speak), but hung my head. Not out of reverence so much as out of a deep sense of shame.

The Sabbath . . . ah, those two words cause me so much heartache and confusion and yearning. I would not throw you out, is what I'd like to tell the Sabbath (as if it were a person one could talk to), but I just don't know any more. I think you might be an impostor, or just some relic from a long, long time ago and my life is confusing enough without you.

6 comments :

  1. Words are inadequate to express my outrage and sympathy. But I feel compelled to say something. This is a classic case of extreme spiritual abuse (along with other kinds). Tragically the victims of this kind of abuse which is all to common become victims of enormous lies about God and about others that blind a person and those around them to the incredible beauty and attractiveness of both God and the truths about Him. It is God's reputation that takes the greatest hit here.
    But it is also clear to me that in spite of the enormous pain you are suffering that the Holy Spirit is working to draw you into healing and truth in ways you cannot even see right now. I want you to know I am praying for you specifically and intensely. God has some wonderful surprises for you. And let me tell you unequivocally - God is nothing whatsoever like the demonic demonstrations that are seen in your abuser. These are illustrations of Satan's desires to hurt the heart of Jesus. And His heart is deeply wounded by what has happened to you.

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  2. Clay,
    I'm a bit at a loss for words myself at the unexpected kindness and compassion of your comment . . .

    I came to the realization years ago that the worst of what I suffered as a child was the loss of my once well-balanced view of God as a good and loving Father.

    It has taken decades for me to get to where I am now: allowing myself to question, to seek truth, to extend grace to myself to go through the healing process (as opposed to my usual mindset of "just keep a stiff upper lip.")

    People like you help me enormously as I become more open to the healing power of the Holy Spirit. I do believe that I am being healed, ever so slowly and gently. I've worked really hard at not turning bitter at what was done to me, and the individual who did it (as well as my mother who knew but failed to protect me.)

    Well, guess I'm not so much at a loss for words after all!

    This year I'm writing a memoir of my childhood. I actually began writing it a couple of years ago, and got derailed when one of my sons was in a near fatal motorcycle accident.

    Anyway, in my memoir I'd like to explore the ways in which God provided for me in the wilderness of my childhood. I don't want this to be the typical 'poor me, poor me' memoir. I don't need or seek sympathy; I'm intrigued by the many ways in which God kept me through those horrendous times, of how he prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. Thank you for your prayers. I know the power of prayer, and I couldn't ask for anything better than that you remember before the throne of mercy.

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  3. Deb,

    I know you love God, and you know God loves you.

    It is painful to think of how many times God's heart must have broken as you were being torn from His arms, and how many tears He must have shed with you.

    I am so thankful that you are finding healing and comfort in His tender arms.

    How amazing that we serve a God of such compassion!

    Like Clay, I am praying for you as well. And we know that "if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:19,20

    We are gathered, and He is in our midst!

    God bless you and keep you, :-)
    Todd

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  4. Deb
    May I suggest that you are now on the 'best' journey of your life.
    God has sometimes had to allow some of us to 'drift' away from what we believed to be the 'right' in order to introduce us to the TRUTH - the real Jesus God.

    You are so special. Why do I even think that? Because of what you are experiencing of God's love just now. God is on trial. The way He is transforming folks like you (and me) is revealing what He is really like - and often in stark contrast to what some of us were raised to believe as being 'godlikeness'. What is going to vindicate God in the 'end' is how He is drawing you to Himself in such wonderful, awesome ways NOW!

    Jesus hurt so much - right along with you - as you were so deeply hurt by the 'lies' being told you about God.

    What Clay feet said I second.

    May God continue to flood you with His wondrous love.

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  5. Todd,

    Thanks for letting me know I'm in your prayers. There is peace in that, and a feeling of safety (if that makes any sense!

    Deb

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  6. Bringer of Peace,

    I'm glad you stopped by and, as always, I'm grateful you took the time to leave a comment.

    It's painful for me to read such beautiful words when they are being aimed at me. I suppose on some deep level I don't believe I deserve them.

    But as I continue on my journey through life and healing, and re-discovering God's character, a flicker of hope keeps making itself noticed. I dare to focus on the hope rather than brush it aside as I so often have done in the past.

    One thing for sure: the encouraging comments here from folks who are also God seekers will definitely help me along the path of healing which I have deliberately sought.

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Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear your point of view.