Sunday, July 08, 2007

Stewardship...Beginning at Home

Had some interesting input from the “weekends” post last week about writing on the Lord’s Day—along the lines of “God gave me this talent, so if I’m using it on the Sabbath, that’s a good thing.” Can’t really argue with that, on one level. Just as my singing in church is “work” in one sense, in a greater sense, it’s using a talent God gave me in the best possible way to use it, and that’s counted as blessed. But it’s when we spend our Sunday/Sabbath doing nothing different from an ordinary day except going to church that, I think, we need to take care. Catholic interpretation of keeping the Sabbath includes doing no unnecessary work, as well as refraining from treating the day the same as you would a regular weekday. So, ironically enough, if your normal weekday is spent writing, technically on the Sabbath you should break from that routine and REST from same. But it’s a dilemma if the other six days of the week crowd out writing, and your “Sabbath” becomes the only time when you can do the writing you feel God calls you to do. That might mean that something on one of those other six days has to go…in order that Sunday truly is not “the only time” you have to do these things in. That’s the tricky part, because we can convince ourselves that almost any use of time is “the way it has to be,” if we’re not careful. I know people who have actually talked themselves into believing that they can only grocery-shop on Sunday, for example; these people had abundant time for sporting events, bar hopping, or the like on Saturday night, though. So was it really true that they “didn’t have time” any other time in the week? Nope. Did they see that? Nope. Would they have been offended if a priest or even another “ordinary” Christian had pointed that out? Maybe. But it would need pointing out, regardless. That’s the kind of careful examination/inventory I maintain we all need to do, and not just once in awhile, but on an ongoing basis. Because these little chinks in our armor don’t ambush us all at once. These little omissions don’t happen in one fell swoop, Invasion of the Body Snatchers style. Satan knows if he comes in with guns blazing, we have no trouble resisting him. So he comes instead under the guise of “busy-ness” and “obligations” and “have tos” instead, our culture applauds us for being endlessly productive, and… Sigh. It’s all part of stewardship. Managing our time, managing our gifts…and managing our environment, as best we can. Caring for what’s been given to us. And I had an interesting session of stewardship this past week, when I deliberately structured a couple of vacation days so that I could in effect have a 5-day weekend. So what did I plan to do with this time? Write nonstop? Sleep half the days? Sun myself? Picnic? Well, part of it, I spent doing a wonderful dose of heavy duty cleaning. Now some of you are screaming.“What are you thinking? You’ve got this time off, don’t waste it housecleaning! Get outside! Do holiday stuff! Write first, then clean!” But what if I expressed it as stewardship for my home? And my sanity? And my emotional state? How, then, does it look to spend the better part of July 4 and 5 in dusting, polishing, decluttering, scrubbing, vacuuming, and organizing? Not only is it a worthwhile thing to do—and enjoyable, if you’re a homebody, as I am—but it’s also good stewardship. And good stewardship is not optional…it’s required of us. Did you ever think of housework that way before? I know I didn’t necessarily. I thought of it as “taking care,” as doing what needed doing…but I don’t think it really hit home to me that a home is part of the “abundance” that God has blessed us with, and we are to be stewards of it as well. So, while we may not get excited about housework, or while we may feel it “is never done,” or the like…the fact is, if we allow our surroundings to be anything less than the best we can make them, to that degree, we’re not practicing good stewardship of what God has given us. And it strikes me as it’s then tricky business to ask God for “more,” for prosperity, or success, or whatever material thing would really make our lives easier, while at the same time treating cleaning our houses as something unimportant—something we only do if there’s “nothing better” to use our time on. God says we have to take care of the “little” things to be trusted with big ones; in that sense, nothing we do in the home is unimportant. On the contrary…it’s more important than we may have ever suspected before. Scripture says if we don’t provide for our own families, we “have denied the faith, and are worse than an infidel.” That’s not just referring to financial provision, although the temptation is great to limit it to that in our own minds. It also applies to keeping our homes clean, uncluttered, and as beautiful as we can make them. It all counts. It’s all stewardship. And that’s why this past holiday weekend has been a great one for me…because I gave myself, and God, the gift of treating my home like the treasure that it is. And in the process, I also “had time” for outdoor stuff, for grilling, for resting, for fireworks…and for writing up a storm part of Friday night and all day Saturday. And I’m going to continue to do some of that same writing today, with God in charge of it, as best I can. It all counts, but the good news is, it all blesses, too. Thoughts? Janny


Donna Alice said...

Excellent post! I had this conversation recently with an older, Nazarene couple. They asked me if I thought it was okay to go out to eat on Sundays? HAving been raised to figure Sunday is God's day and the fact that everything was closed when I was a kid---I rarely do anything on Sunday except go to church and rest. I told them so. They were thrilled to find a Catholic with some sense. It worries them that so many people treat Sunday as just another day.

And your housecleaning spree sounds like something I need to do. I spent the week of the 4th sunning by the Atlantic Ocean!

Janny said...

I appreciate the sentiment of trying to keep the Lord's Day--that's why I like it that car dealers are closed that day, even if no one else is. :-) (At least in Illinois and Indiana, they are. Don't know if that's nationwide.) I really do wish that more retailers would close on Sundays--in days before everything was 24/7, we all coped with getting what we needed on the other six days. It seems to me that, instead of giving us "more" time to do things by being open Sundays, that action in effect gives us "less" time--because then we tend to overfill our schedules for the other six days and use Sunday as a "catchup." That's lose-lose if I ever saw it.

That being said, however, I think asking someone if they go out to eat on Sundays is a bit much. I would have had MAJOR trouble with that question and that attitude--maybe because when I was growing up, restaurants were one of the few places that were open on Sundays, for the express purpose of giving Mom a Sabbath. I know it entailed people working that day in order to do so...but then again, there are always people who don't get Sundays off. Medical, police, fire, and other service/emergency people work that day, just to name a few.

What we need to aim at, I think, isn't so much a perfect world where "sense" is reflected by what you don't do on Sundays; I think it's more important to catch the notion of Sabbath, and try to implement it in one's life, whatever day of the week that ends up being.