Sunday, March 13, 2011

Taking a Day Off

Sundays used to be boring. There were blue laws—so called because of the paper they were printed on, not because of the way they made you feel. Stores were closed, except for drug stores, which actually sold only first aid and pain relievers, and thus received special dispensations. Fast food hadn’t been invented yet, nor were stores open for 24 hours and drive through restaurants open until 3 a.m. Sports teams didn’t play on Sundays. In my youth group, boys who refused to take jobs that required them to work on Sundays were lauded. (Girls didn’t get jobs beyond babysitting.)
            I was bored for many early years of Sundays, when there was nothing to do and I was taken to my paternal grandmother’s farm for chicken dinners. The afternoon stretched on and on, no one to play with except the boy cousins and my brother, nothing to do but read and color quietly. Later, there was pizza for supper, picked up hot in the box from a nearby pizza place, which somehow escaped the blue laws. But Sunday was just hours in which to do nothing.
            When rebuked for picking an ear of corn on the day of rest, Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The laws of enforced stillness were for our benefit. Here was one day in seven different from the others. Nothing was demanded, nothing expected.
            I’m turning ever more into an impossible old crank. A big part of me wants the blue laws back, even though I am having an interminable self-enforced Sunday afternoon. Years ago a pastor challenged us in the congregation to make one day in the week different, even if it couldn’t be Sundays. I’ve tried to do so, with more or less success, for decades. Does it make me better than anyone else? Hardly, since I sometimes fidget through the day and sometimes make up elaborate excuses for justifying un-Sabbath-like behavior. Still, I think we’ve lost our collective minds with our emphasis on continual productivity, our refusal to let the land of our mind and hearts lie fallow for one day a week.
            I have it easy: no houseful of bored children to keep amused, no one to please but myself. I’ve not had to accept a job that demanded Sunday labor, not had to stand against some wholesome activity that is now scheduled on Sundays. I can keep the television off if I choose to, stay out of the mall, do no housework, wait for Monday while I read and putter. In seminary, a friend who was juggling assignments and internships with being a single mom who owned a house used to joke about wanting two weeks to be bored. Maybe one day a week wouldn’t be so terrible. Say yes to boredom; it’s not as romantic as Mary’s yes to Gabriel, to God, but choosing Sabbath rest could be the yes that helps Christ to be born in us.

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