“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
When I read this line from Anne of Green Gables a few months ago it resonated in me. It awakened an awareness of a battle that had been raging deep in my soul for many years. Like Anne, I had different Erikas in me, and it did cause much trouble. And yes, it would be so much more comfortable, though perhaps less interesting, if there was just one.
This moment was the first among many I’ve had this summer that helped me to understand and, ultimately, address my longstanding, secret inner struggle. It was the first among many retrospectively clarifying moments.
The Two Sides
To boil it down, there is a Sabbath-and-holy-day-keeping, Christmas-and-Easter-shunning, clean-meat-eating side of me from my youth.
And then there is the more recent Sunday-keeping, gospel-preaching, lost-reaching, praise-singing side of me.
(We’re not even going to get into the side of me that resists anything of God and seeks instead to follow my own whims and desires. That’s a whole separate thing.)
During my early life when my family walked in the Sabbath ways, I saw a wholeness in Scripture that I loved. Exodus related to Matthew, which related to Acts, and so on. Because of this wholeness, there was a depth to the celebrations that was rich and beautiful. I could see the origins of our practices right there in scripture and loved knowing that I was participating in the same things as men and women throughout the Bible.
However, it wasn’t until I started attending mainstream Sunday-keeping Christian churches as a young adult that I actually encountered my sinfulness and the Savior. The moment of my salvation is precious to me. Though I don’t remember the exact date, I vividly remember reading Isaiah 53 and weeping because of what my Savior did to rescue me from my sins. I remember being enveloped in an unspeakably magnificant relationship with Him. I’ve never been the same since.
At this point of salvation, the Sunday-keeping side of me shunned the Sabbath-keeping side for never having led me to this saving understanding. With an unconscious resentment, the Sunday-keeping side proceeded to make a case against the necessity of the Sabbath and all of the other beliefs held by the Sabbath side.
For a long time, the Sunday side dominated.
The Inner Dialogue
Though it was not clear to me while it was happening, I can look back now and see how the battles progressed. Following is an example of what they looked like.
Even though the Sunday side always silently grieved for the loss of the Sabbath and beautiful holy days and was never able to embrace the common Christian holidays, it reasoned, “Our church doesn’t keep the Lord’s feasts, but our pastors are constantly preaching about the truths they represent. Every week we hear about how Christs’ death on our behalf enables God to ‘pass over’ our sins (Passover), how we should strive to put sin out of our lives (Feast of Unleavened Bread), and so on. So, though we do not keep the particular days, the most important parts of those days are being celebrated on a regular basis. In that way, our church is living out Colossians 2:16-17, which says that those days were a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
“I see that point,” the Sabbath side would sadly concede, unsure exactly how to respond. It seemed the holy day argument was a good one. “But what about the Sabbath day? Now that you have put aside the ‘shadow of the things to come,’ you have neglected to rest. You’re going so hard all the time. If the God of creation rested on the seventh day, and the Savior of the world rested on the seventh day, don’t you think you should consider doing the same?”
“Sure, I need a rest,” the Sunday side admitted. “But haven’t we heard that the Sabbath falls among the ‘ceremonial’ commandments that are no longer required? The new covenant is concerned with God’s moral law, not the ceremonial ones.”
“But where do you see a differentiation in scripture between the ‘moral’ and the ‘ceremonial’ law?” asked the Sabbath side. “I can’t find it. I see just one law. And about the new covenant you mentioned, Hebrews 8:10 which quotes Jeremiah 31:31-33 says that God will put his laws into our minds, and write them on our hearts. So, it’s not a removal of the law, but an internalization of it that seems to differentiate the two covenants.”
“You are getting hung up on particulars and neglecting to see all of the really critical areas in which God has been growing me lately,” insisted the Sunday side. “Just think of how I’ve grown in modesty, humility, and loving my husband, just to name a few. And all this has happened without the Sabbath or the holy days. Aren’t these things more important than days?”
“Yes,” the Sabbath-side resigned, weary from the struggle. “Those are critical developments indeed.”
“Exactly! Now if you would quiet these legalistic concerns down, I could stay focused on growing in godliness and probably bear much more fruit.”
“But,” the weakened Sabbath side feebly protested, “just because I understand something to be important to God which you understand to be unimportant doesn’t mean I am legalistic. I have loved our Savior too ever since we came to know Him. I love Him with all my heart. Because of that love, I want to handle his word very carefully.”
“And I understand that,” assured the Sunday side. “Let’s just agree to disagree for now and trust that God will continue the work He is doing to conform us to the image of his son just as He promises in Romans 8:28-29.”
And so the struggles went. There were many variations in the dialogue – law vs. grace, old covenant vs. new covenant, clean vs. unclean meats, John’s description of the law vs. Paul’s description of the law.
Though the topics of the disputes have not been constant, the ebb and flow of their presence within me has been. There have been moments where it seemed one side had defeated the other and emerged victorious. A quiet peace would settle until the conquered side would gain footing and rise again. I’d exhaust myself in circles, and then the battle would die – at least for a while. Inner reconciliation seemed hopeless.
Help from the outside seemed equally hopeless. Hearing how my Sunday side friends scorned the “Old Covenant” and the “law” and the legalism that sprouted from such things kept me from sharing my inner battle. And the few Sabbath resources I had seemed equally unable to address the other side’s concerns without contempt.
But the Lord is able to do what no one else can. He is able to bring peace where hope for peace is lost.