The Day to Shape the Days Upon
If I had to name a single novel as my favorite, it would be Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic masterwork The Road. I read it for the first time five years ago, confined to a chair while recovering from surgery. I've read it four more times since. It's something of an annual tradition for me now, a reminder that Stephen King was right when he said “good books don't give up all their secrets at once.”
One of my favorite scenes in the entire story takes places about halfway through. Hunted and harried, exhausted, starving, and filthy, the man and the boy stumble across a bunker in the middle of the wasteland,
walled with concrete block. A poured concrete floor laid over with kitchen tile. There were a couple of iron cots with bare springs, one against either wall, the mattress pads rolled up at the foot of them in army fashion. He turned and looked at the boy crouched above him blinking in the smoke rising from the lamp and then he descended to the lower steps and sat and held the lamp out. Oh my God, he whispered. Oh my God.
The more often I read this passage, the less those three words sound like a throwaway line. By the light of the lamp the man glimpses a small paradise: crates filled with canned fruits, canned vegetables, canned meats; gallons of clean water; toilet paper; blankets. Overwhelmed, he tells the boy to come down, come down and see.
What did you find?
I found everything. Everything. Wait till you see.
It doesn't matter how familiar I am with the scene; I always breathe a little easier here. There's a palpable sense of relief as father and son wash, eat, and rest tucked away for awhile from the hell of their wretched world. Hope lives.
Now hold that thought.
Every Sunday around the dinner table we go through a brief catechism with the little ones. Here's an excerpt:
Q. What day of the week is this?
A. The first day, the foundation day.
Q. What does this mean?
A. Every day is built on a foundation of grace.
I think of this often during the week. Even as I look forward to the coming Lord's Day, I am reminded to give thanks for the one behind me. Every week the story is the same. Every week Christ's people – hunted, harried, exhausted, starving, filthy – gather together to worship the Triune God. “Your sins are forgiven.” Here is true rest. “This is my body, broken for you.” Here is true nourishment. Every week we take refuge in a bunker against which even the gates of Hell will not prevail (Matt. 16:18), and every week we go forth refreshed to love and serve the risen Lord.
The Sabbath is more than just one day out of seven. It is the queen of days. It is, to borrow another line from another part of McCarthy's story, “the day to shape the days upon.” And in the remembrance of this there is joy.