Sundays have meant different things to me at different times of my life. As a kid, the day began with Sunday breakfast. Mom, often with help from me and my little sister, would prepare a big meal for our family of six. Some weeks she made pancakes, some weeks she made French toast. I can also remember other weeks just standing at the toaster making a huge plate of toast to go with whatever else we were having. Toast specifically made for my father had to have the little adjustment lever all the way to the far right, resulting in a charred brick no one else would eat.
Bread of some sort was always involved in Mom’s Sunday breakfasts. To complement the main course of starchiness, there would be delicacies like bacon, sausage, eggs, and grits.
Oh yes, grits. To eat grits right requires stirring in at least a teaspoon of sugar to your bowl (we used three teaspoons when I was growing up, but I have scaled back), adding a pat of butter until it starts melting, and then splashing in just a drop or two of milk so it mixes up with the melted butter. Break apart a piece of toast, and add it to the mix if you are ready to take your grits to the next level (optional – for advanced connoisseurs of grits only).
Sunday breakfast would normally hold us until an early dinner, which was often big, too – though the specific courses weren’t as consistent. While Sunday breakfast was always at the big round dinner table, dinner was sometimes allowed in front of the TV in the living room. I can remember watching a movie called Shenandoah, one of my father’s favorites, one Sunday afternoon while eating pork chops and jelly biscuits.
Now, that’s not to say we avoided the occasional nod to healthy eating in our house. For instance, we quite often ate a salad – iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, deli ham and Kraft American cheese cut into little squares – doused in French dressing prior to the main course of a huge plate of angel hair spaghetti covered in Prego sauce with added ground beef. On the side, plenty of warm French or Italian bread on which butter would quickly melt away into nothingness. For drink, you had your choice between a pitcher of sweet iced tea or ice cold Coca-Cola.
Okay, maybe I was stretching it a bit with the “healthy eating” claim. But there was a salad buried somewhere in there. And we did, for a time, substitute Diet Coke for the real thing.
By middle school, I had grown an appreciation for football, so Sunday afternoons during that season consisted of sitting in the living room while my father and brother screamed at the TV in attempts to motivate our team. Their combined yelling apparently catapulted the team to multiple Super Bowl wins, for the team began a perennial losing streak soon after my father left the scene that continues to this day nearly three decades later.
As middle school wore on and then on into high school, Sunday nights became a time of anxiety for me. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t do any of my homework (though often true), it was the knowledge that I had to face another full week at that place – dealing with people, not being myself, and other assorted problems.
My first job was at an amusement park, so Sunday then became a key working day for me as I entered adulthood. No more big breakfasts or football games. This lasted a couple of years before I moved on to more typical Monday through Friday work – though, admittedly, never quite as fun as the park.
Sunday night anxiety became a fixture, except the dread of the forthcoming school week was soon replaced with the dread of the forthcoming work week. During my marriage, I went through a long period of time where my inner dialogue often consisted of statements like, “I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead.” Sunday nights into Monday mornings were the peak for these kinds of thoughts. By Monday mornings, my stomach was ripped to pieces. But this post is about Sundays. Fortunately for you.
Sundays during my marriage consisted of a blaring TV. Actually, so did all of the other days of my marriage, but on Sundays, it would specifically blare either football games or NASCAR races – both of which I had lost interest in by the time I was married, oddly enough. Sometimes I would sit there with my former spouse and endure this audio and video assault. Other times, I would go hide in my office to try to have a moment to just think, knowing full well I would be guilt tripped later for my retreat.
I find it difficult to concentrate when a TV is blaring all the time, and my former spouse required the TV to be on at all times – even while sleeping. My only opportunities for audio peace were those few times she wasn’t home. Anyway, I am getting off track here. We can dissect my marriage some other time.
In general, I saw Sunday as a lesser version of Saturday. Lesser because Saturday morning was full of promise with the entire weekend ahead, while Sunday was an inevitable march into Monday, collapsing hopes that the new week would never come.
In June 2018, JC led me to Jesus and, as evidenced by just about every post I’ve ever made on this blog, my entire life changed. Including, of course, Sundays.
At that time, for various reasons, I began attending my local church through streaming. Combined with the daily quiet time of reading and prayer that JC instilled into me right from the start, I began to learn and absorb so much about Jesus, God, and myself. Over time, Jesus and JC helped me with my anxiety. While I still have my anxious moments from time-to-time, they are nothing like the prison I had built and constantly refined for myself before I knew Jesus.
As my marriage disintegrated, I began attending the church in person. Outside of JC and a couple of her friends, I never did become fully comfortable there, though. While I was learning, the environment never felt quite right. The mostly monochromatic parishioners left me cold, for one thing. Everyone looked like me, which wasn’t what I wanted. And there were other issues.
JC and I did a few times drive about 70 miles to a small church that I absolutely love (another long story). Locally, we began trying to find a more diverse church. This proved a bigger challenge than anticipated.
Then, COVID-19 hit. My Sundays changed again, as did everyone else’s on the planet – no matter their belief system. At first, it felt like I had come full circle. I was streaming the local church again, but that church just wasn’t for me anymore.
Instead, I began to seek out other streaming alternatives to hear the Word. Dr. Tony Evans and Pastor T.D. Jakes have really risen to the challenge of these times, and I have felt so enriched experiencing their web sermons. The little church 70 miles down the road even added video sermons, which allowed me to stay spiritually in touch with them as well.
Whereas Sundays had become about dutifully going to a church for an hour where I never quite belonged, it has evolved in COVID times for me into a day of worship, learning, reflection, and writing. My three most recent Sundays began with reading, prayer, a big breakfast (in honor of Mom, though never quite as big as those days gone by), followed by whichever video sermon I am led to watch, followed by lunch, blogging, another video sermon, some reading, dinner, and blogging again. And some praise music mixed up in all of that, too.
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I usually sneak a nap or two in there as well. After all, it is supposed to be a day of rest, right?
I just noticed the time. My heart still sinks when I realize Sunday is almost over. Anxiety is always on the other side of the door, waiting to come in. No. This time, I won’t open that door. Jesus will hold it closed for me.
Thank you for reading these rambles. May Jesus bless you.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”