hy do all you people wait till Friday to shop?” a woman asked my friend late one Friday afternoon at the local grocery store.
I remembered a newly baptized friend, one Friday years ago, watching me in fascination as I scrubbed my apartment in a veritable cleaning frenzy. He asked in amazement, “Do all Adventists do this?” It was not a compliment.
This week a student told me that every Friday her mother “went ballistic.” She says her father now does the Sabbath cleaning because otherwise the screaming and accusations affect the family all weekend long. I’m guessing that there may be a lot of ballistic Fridays in Adventland.
So I’ve been asking myself the question posed by that bemused non-Adventist. Why do I wait till Friday to do so much of my Sabbath preparation? I tell myself it’s because I value the Sabbath and want to enter its hours mentally and materially prepared. But have I been going about that preparation in the best and healthiest way?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that preparing for the Sabbath is important and biblical. Exodus is clear, Leviticus includes instructions for the Israelites to launder their clothing for Sabbath (in a desert, no less); manna fell in double portion on Fridays with none on Saturdays—all of which indicate the importance of greeting the Sabbath in a state of readiness. Our personal experience confirms that it is harder to achieve inner peace in the midst of outer chaos. Can you remember Sabbath mornings when clothing hadn’t been laid out, baths taken, etc., and what a whirlwind it was just getting the family out the door?
But Friday preparations needn’t mean lack of preparation Sunday through Thursday. It dawned on me that I could start cleaning for the Sabbath before Friday: though this is not rocket science, I confess it required a bit of a paradigm shift for me. When I plan my weekend menus in advance and shop accordingly, launder midweek, vacuum Thursday, etc., there’s just less left to accomplish on Friday. I spend less of Friday in line at the store, tied to my home with cleaning, or stressing out about what I forgot to do and how it will affect weekend plans. Yes, this is easier for me to achieve, living alone, than it is for a family. But it might be even more important for a family.
Doing other than barely surviving Friday can leave time and energy for more meaningful Sabbath rituals. When I clean right till sundown, I just want to flop down, exhausted. When I’m ready for Sabbath ahead of time, I’m more inclined to light candles, read and meditate, invite others to greet the Sabbath with me, and make wiser plans for the rest of Sabbath’s hours.
And knocking ourselves out every Friday may not be the very best witness. Can others tell which late Friday shoppers are Adventist just by noting which ones recheck their watches and furtively scan the horizon? I wonder what kind of message we give when we live fully frenzied Fridays. That newly baptized friend who wanted to welcome the Sabbath with me was given only the choice of mopping or watching. Looking back, I wish I had stopped cleaning long enough to chat over a cup of tea and our open Bibles.
It’s true that some weeks just don’t allow for anything but frenzied Fridays. But we may have inadvertently trained ourselves to make that true of every Friday. Surely, it’s not too late to change that—to look forward to the Sabbath all week long, to greet it with less frazzle and more joy. How wonderful it would be to have fewer frenzied Fridays.
And more blessed Sabbaths.
Valerie N. Phillips is the associate dean of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years.