I am unreasonably afraid of running out of gas in the car. I think it is because I learned to drive in Northern Wisconsin, where running out of gas in the middle of winter could be a fatal mistake. Driving instructors told tales of fools who carelessly ventured out on old logging roads without enough gas and were never seen again.
"Freak snowstorms as early as October or as late as May are not too remote a possibility," my instructors would ominously warn. Taking their tales to heart, I developed the cautious habit of filling up my tank whenever it was down to around one-fourth full.
My habit served me well for over 20 years, but then gas prices skyrocketed, and it became too expensive to fill the family van past one-fourth full. Although I knew it was a necessary financial measure, driving on a nearly empty tank all the time really stressed me out. I felt foolish and unprepared for the possibility of getting lost, being late, or running into that freak snowstorm. Last September, I began to get really nervous about driving our oldest kids to and from their high school about 30 miles away from home.
There are parallels with the spiritual aspects of life. Am I usually tanked up on faith or always running on empty? When a crisis comes up, do I have enough spiritual reserve to get through? Am I as aware of my faith gauge as I am of my gas gauge? In truth, I have witnessed far more terrifying spiritual storms than hazardous snow storms since getting my driver's license. Storms like unforgiveness demolishing relationships, materialism siphoning off family finances, and disregard for Church teaching exploding into divorce.
I can think of many good ways to stay tanked up on faith, but I'd like to focus on one. That way would be to take the Third Commandment seriously by really celebrating the Sabbath. First and foremost, this would mean getting to Mass every week, but just getting to Mass would be like getting just a quarter a tank of gas.
You see, keeping holy the Sabbath means more than just getting my sacraments and winning the race out of the church parking lot. A Sabbath is a "recurring period of rest and worship" based on God's resting on the seventh day after creating the world. To get spiritually tanked up, we need to stop spinning our work-a-day wheels, to physically rest, and to refresh our relationship with God and family once a week. It's God's plan for keeping our spiritual fuel gauges pegged on full, and Jewish and Christian cultures have lived and prospered by it for thousands of years.
Sadly, our post-modern culture seems to enjoy doing anything but observing God's plans, so the cost of really keeping holy the Sabbath is getting pretty high. The cost sometimes includes not being able to participate in sports, jobs, or other events that regularly take place on Sunday. Tough choices. I must tell you, however, that, time and time again, when our family has made even the smallest effort to become more of a Sabbath people, God has provided for the extra time and money we've needed during the other six days of the week. Which reminds me of how God provided for me in my anxiety about driving around on a nearly empty tank of gas.
Come last September, I discovered that gas prices over by the kids' high school were as much as $.34 per gallon cheaper than near our home! Now, by waiting to fill up near the kids' school, I can almost pay for the drive over, and I don't have to drive around on empty quite as often. Most of all, the situation is a tangible reminder of my need to stay fueled up on faith in order to better weather life's storms and that God will bless my efforts to get fueled up by keeping the Sabbath.