by Joanie Butman
Last year I wrote about a visit to my little friend, Grace’s, preschool class to do crafts. As it was the Friday before Mother's Day, I decided to have them make beaded bracelets for their moms. I opened with the question, “Does anyone know what’s special about Sunday?” With enthusiasm rarely seen in a boy confined to a desk being asked to do a craft, Henry leaped out of his seat while pumping his hand in the air wildly. “It’s the day Dad doesn’t have to go to work, and I get to spend the day with him.” While not the response I was seeking, I applauded his heartfelt reply before specifying that I actually meant this particular Sunday. Even so, his answer was precious and held an even deeper spiritual truth that's stayed with me.
As I anticipated celebrating Father’s Day today, Henry’s comment bubbled to the surface. It was one of those pearls of wisdom you often hear from children. No wonder Jesus claimed, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Did you know the idiom has a biblical derivation? (Read Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:16) I’m dating myself, but Art Linkletter had his own version, Kids Say the Darndest Things. For example, He asked one child who wanted to be a pilot, “What would you say if you were flying a big airplane and all four engines stopped?” The boy responded without hesitation, “Our Father who art in Heaven...."
Given life’s smorgasbord of calamities, it’s comforting to know God is available 24/7. While God doesn’t need to take days off, He still instituted a Sabbath. Why? As with all of His decrees, it’s for our benefit of course. He’s always working on our behalf, and the creation of the Sabbath is no exception. Jesus answers my question himself in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Left to our own devices, God knew we wouldn’t take the necessary time to rest and renew physically, mentally and spiritually. Yes, He longs to spend time with us, but He also longs for us to spend time with each other. He knew the importance of Christian fellowship, which is an integral aspect to keeping the Sabbath.
Ideally, the goal is to walk with God always, regardless of what you’re doing. There are many that have achieved this level of spiritual maturity, but more often the obligations, challenges and distractions of life have a tendency to take over with a sense of relentless urgency that pushes spirituality to the back burner. Now more than ever, it’s essential to ‘unplug’ from daily responsibilities to spend time with our spiritual Father where we can experience a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit washing over us, quieting our minds and our souls. In today’s jargon it’s called disconnecting to connect. Rick Warren often teaches that inner calm is the intercom to God. This truth is especially important during hard times because He is the only one capable of calming the storm raging inside you. Then, strengthened and renewed by His Spirit, you are better equipped to deal with the one raging around you.
Shooting off ‘arrow prayers’* is fine and effective, but a deep, meaningful relationship with the Divine can only be developed by spending uninterrupted time getting to know Him. Being still is a form of worship that few value in our nanosecond society. Yet, it is the most effective antidote to the anxiety epidemic sweeping our nation. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
When I was young, Sundays truly were set aside for God, family and friends. Church, afternoon dinner at your grandparents’ house and Walt Disney in the evening were the only activities. You couldn’t do anything else even if you wanted to, which we didn’t. Everything was shut down. There was no such thing as FOMO (fear of missing out). Everyone was doing the same thing in some form or another. Sadly today, Sunday is just another day – business (or busyness) as usual.
So, while we are connecting and honoring our earthly fathers today as they deserve, let’s choose to do the same with our Divine Father. Why not choose to approach the Sabbath with little Henry’s gleeful enthusiasm, anticipating our ‘day off’ and cherishing the opportunity to spend time with our Dad and our brothers and sisters in Christ? It’s always the wise choice.