I figured out at a young age that being a Christian in America was considered normal but being Seventh-day Adventist was weird. Or, at least, it felt strange enough to be worth hiding from kids at my middle school. My older brother’s silence on the topic at school was an unspoken agreement to what I already knew: We weren’t Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Episcopalian—we were Seventh-day Adventist, and that wasn’t normal.
The fourth commandment was the pillar of my family’s faith and was the longest of God’s commands passed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was also the forgotten commandment, I was taught, and other Christians would disregard the sanctity of the Sabbath, which would be their cause for damnation and was the source of a unique Adventist pride. I would repeat the commandment with our church congregation, a collective pronouncement of the foundation on which our Church stands:
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shall thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it, thou shalt not do any work. Thou, nor thy sons, nor thy daughters, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy shepherd, nor thy stranger that is within thine gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and Earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day, wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.
Specific rules around the Sabbath varied across families and regions, from simply taking the day off work, to a more conservative view that included preparing your food the day beforehand because cooking on the Sabbath itself would be work. In Michigan, my family was closer to the latter. During the Sabbath, I couldn’t watch TV, play sports or video games, cook, clean, or listen to secular music. As a general rule, if I had to question whether it brought glory to God, it likely didn’t and shouldn’t be done on the Sabbath.
As a kid, my job was to find the loopholes.