Since I got wrapped halfway around a tree whilst canoeing out of our house during Hurricane Matthew, my back has never quite been the same. Sometimes it’s even less the same than others, if you know what I mean, and Sunday was one of those days.
We ended up having home worship, since I could barely walk. I took a Sunday nap somewhere around noon, which is against my principles. By late afternoon I was restive and costive. It was entirely too pretty of a day to be stuck inside when I was facing a week of staring more at my computer monitor than the world outside.
Toni the dog was unhappy, too. Wandering aimlessly around the farm is one of our Sunday traditions, and being 14 years old, she didn’t understand why her whippersnapper of a human couldn’t take her walking. I finally gave up, called her up and half-staggered to my chair in the front yard, where a friendly oak provides just enough shade at the right time of day to make for a pleasant al fresco parlor.
I thought of all the things I could be doing – the range was closed, but the river was open. There were people I really needed to talk to, and simple little relaxing things I really wanted to do. The donkeys and the horse needed brushing, and the goats needed some attention, lest they get bored and take over the world in a chaos of horror and screaming.
Instead, I had little choice but to sit there in the sunshine and think. Toni gave me a disgusted look, then found her own sunspot and was snoring in minutes. I envy dogs their ability to sleep.
I was trying to figure out when even Sundays became so busy. Our house was never one of those go-to-your-room-after-church-and don’t-make-a-sound homes, but Sundays tended to be a little quieter. Sometimes my folks would drag me along visiting, and there would be other kids with whom I could get into something while the grownups talked about cabbages and kings. Later, our shooting club gathered on Sunday after church, but that was still never really a busy time.
My trade has always demanded some violation of the commandment of the Sabbath, since we usually had a Tuesday morning deadline. During a time when I had strayed farther than I like to admit, Sundays were a time for fishing, beaches and drinking, not necessarily in that order, along with still getting the necessary work done so Monday wouldn’t last 35 hours.
Courtesy of technology, the Sunday work later became a bit more streamlined, but it’s still there. Sadly, if I am not doing something vocational or recreational of a Sunday afternoon, I feel like I am wasting time.
Sitting there in my chair, beseeching the latest handful of ibuprofen to kick in, I wondered why we have allowed things to get so busy.
I am not a football fan, but I have friends who are and they invite others over to watch a game every now and then. That of course leads to frantic busy-ness of making sure everything is ready for one’s guests. Other folks simply have to go shopping, often an hour or so away. Still others simply must get out and do something, just to be doing. I am just as guilty as any of them, but I can’t quite figure out when it began, or why.
I have recounted before how I get the Sunday Night Blues on occasion, and simply cannot relax or sleep or set aside the worries of the week ahead that rumble and flash on the horizon like distant artillery fire.
I just don’t know why the Sunday Afternoon Busy-ness has taken things over.
God knew what He was doing when He pointed out in Exodus Chapter 20, Verse Eight that everyone needs a little rest. After all, He created the earth, the skies, the waters, and all the critters that crawl, walk, swim and fly in six days, and threw in Adam to boot. I daresay we should be able to complete our significantly less demanding to-do lists in a similar period of time, but I often fail.
I wish I could remember the gentleman’s name, but it’s been nigh onto a half-century ago when he told of buying a high-end “Baptist” mule from a neighbor’s widow, a half-century before my birth. The neighbor was well known as a devout man, constantly in the scripture, and living the word as well as reading it. The raconteur was just starting out as a young farmer when he bought the mule, whose training was legendary. The mule was a handsome animal, well behaved and powerful.
Well, shortly after buying the mule, the young farmer decided he was going to get in an extra day of plowing, so he skipped church. The perfect specimen of a mule wouldn’t budge from his stall when he saw the new owner come in with a lead line. No matter what he did, the young farmer couldn’t convince the mule to come out and get to work.
The young man, in a temper, went to the widow that afternoon and said he was returning the mule. She commented that she saw the mule working the day before, and wanted to know what was wrong.
When the young farmer blurted out that he had skipped church to plow, the widow gently reminded him that of course the mule wouldn’t work on Sunday — it was the Sabbath, a day of rest, and Old Henry was a good Baptist mule.
“Even a mule has the right to rest on the Sabbath,” she said. “God says so.”
Sure enough, the mule worked twice as hard Monday, and every Monday thereafter.
Whether the story was true or cooked up on a potbellied stove at a country store (in this case, a Saturday morning barbershop) I cannot say. I do know that livestock often have a lot more common sense than we humans.
Some of my favorite, most precious memories are from Sunday afternoons: riding around with my father, going to community baseball games, quietly fishing or just driving. On rare occasions, we would all go to the movies as a family on a Sunday afternoon. A friend and mentor would let me go metal detecting with him on Sunday afternoons, but we had to be back in time for evening Bible study.
Miss Rhonda and I did much of our courting Sundays after church, and before I had to go back to work at the paper that evening. There was a time many years later when we would just sit at the barn and talk to the horses on Sunday afternoons, despite 1,001 things that needed doing. Sometimes, albeit rarely, we still go find a random section of woods and drive through it, scouting for wildlife, old trees, sights unseen and tales untold.
Sitting there in my yard chair, wincing when I moved wrong and listening to Samantha Fish sing about going home, I thought about how we all need to slow down our Sundays a little. It’s not just another day of the week, or a chance to get the other work done before going back to work-work. If we could do that, I really think we would all be happier and more productive.
The world we a lot better if we were all slowed down and took a day of rest, like a good Baptist mule.