“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
—Isaiah 58:13, 14
Sabbath had become kind of a pain. I certainly waited for it every week, but once it passed by I’d realize how disappointing it had been. I had great expectation for the Sabbath that never materialized.
During my sophomore year in college, the Spanish Sabbath school continued under new leadership, but it never took off. I can’t exactly remember when we stopped doing it but there was no point in continuing there when we could all probably have a more fulfilling Sabbath experience attending other groups.
So I began attending another Sabbath school which I liked because it combined feeling and rational thought. Many great professors are part of this group and they bring thought-provoking perspectives. Yes, I am a nerd.
Despite the great fit, I started to show up less and less often. I would stay in my room thinking I had things figured out. I thought, my relationship with Jesus is personal. I don’t really need to be part of a group. I can just stay in my room and read the Bible. You know, have my own devotional. That’ll be more fulfilling.
Deep down (or not so deep) I knew things would not get better. However, that’s what I told myself on Saturday mornings to be okay with myself for sleeping in. After all, I had been really busy during the week and was really tired by the time Sabbath arrived. I deserved my break, my alone time.
This changes to my Sabbath came as a result of how I felt during the week. By the end I was not only tired but extremely frustrated. Perhaps I did not get as far as I wanted or needed in my clarinet repertoire. Perhaps my ear was still as bad as the previous week. Perhaps my writing did not seem to get better. Whether it was knowing too little or failing at accomplishing relevance, I felt as frustrated as never before.
Sabbath became my day. It was a break, or so I told myself. Little by little, I made Sabbath a day where I could get ahead on the things I was behind. What if I worked on my ear or read a good book? It is for a good cause and, besides, there is nothing inherently wrong with those activities. So, I began doing those things. I began taking advantage of that day of rest to not rest.
I quickly noticed that doing these things frustrated me even more, because I knew I was cheating God. I did not feel okay going my own way on the Sabbath. And even if I wanted to blame my guilt on conservatism, that’d be futile. As Ezekiel 20:20 says, Sabbath is a sign of a commitment between God and me. This is not legalism, this is about a commitment with God. Sabbath is a sign of that and a reminder of who God is.
Whether it was trying to advance on my musical abilities or adding something to my brain or maybe even playing video games to give vent to my frustrations, I felt empty. The more I left God out of the picture, the more dissatisfied I became.
I had willingly distanced myself from God. Sabbath was no longer a Sabbath, it was just a day off.
When I went back home this summer, it hit me how much my spiritual life had changed. Before I left Mexicali in the summer of 2012, my relationship with Jesus looked like a linear graph with a pretty good slope. Three years later, I couldn’t help but see a parabola.
Going home was my reality check. It was time to realize where I really stood. I had to categorically admit I had screwed up.
I only had two options. Ask God for help or quit.