I wasn’t always as enthusiastic about the Sabbath as I am today. Twenty-five years ago, I thought Sabbath was just another word for church — something I did with my lola (Filipino for grandmother). I always greeted the day as her chaperone, carrying things for her, hearing her hum old hymns, and wondering what went through her mind. As we walked toward the terminal where we caught our ride to church, her arms wrapped around me and her hands gently tapped my shoulder as she hummed.
Whenever I tried to run outside with other kids during service, my grandmother grabbed my hand, pointed at the preacher, and whispered, “Listen.” It was big people stuff for me, but something was really happening in my grandmother. She’d nod at the preacher’s words and sometimes utter her own. I asked her, “What is it?” She would just smile and run her fingers through my hair as if to say, “You’ll see soon enough.”
Being a teenager on Sabbath was different. Iola insisted I go with a youth group I hardly knew. After church she treated me to my favorite burger and spaghetti, and we’d talk about what happened during FYC.
Age was catching up to her. I began to notice her wrinkles and freckles, but her gentle voice and warmth didn’t change. When I was home from college, we chatted and she laughed at my jokes. Little did I know her journey was almost up. After a few days in the hospital, my grandmother breathed her last — on my birthday.
My grandmother was my guiding light, my loving mentor. Now she was gone. What would life be without her?
The first Sabbath after her death was tough. I walked around like a zombie. After weeks and then months, I recovered and found God most real in a day that was dear to my grandmother: the Sabbath. She was gone, but the source of her songs reentered my life. I began seeing through her eyes. I never regret having found consolation in God.
The Sabbath offers more than moments of religious activity. It provides a binding for our wounds, comfort for our sorrows — even a hand on our shoulder. It’s a chance to start afresh, to shed the stuff that weighs us down, to cast our burdens upon the One who can help. Human efforts can cover wounds only a little. But with God’s gentle voice, in His loving hand and warm heart, we walk in joy.
I remember that moment in church long ago, when I asked my grandmother what was she saying to the preacher. They were talking about a verse in Ecclesiastes 3 that says God has set a time and a place for everything — a time to be nurtured, a time to be a child, a time to weep, and a time to be so-ber and grow into the knowledge of His love. Now I realize how great God is.
My lola’s favorite scripture was “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). She lived by this verse and was laid to rest with it. How I choose to live honors her and brings her smile to God’s face. Even now, I’m much closer to my lola when I come into God’s presence — on His holy Sabbath day.BA