In my pastoral classes in Seminary our professors (all of which had spent much time in the pastorate throughout their ministry) spoke to us about the importance of carving time out each week to rest. They all emphasized again and again how in ministry you need to take a day off each week. Get away from the office. Turn your cell phone off. Don’t check your email every 10 minutes. Go golfing, go fishing, do whatever relaxes you, read, pray, and refresh your mind, body, and soul, for the work God has for you to do.
They all warned that if we didn’t do this and safeguard ourselves then our ministry would suffer. In theory this sounded wonderful, but was extremely theoretical as most of us in Seminary were working full time and in school full time and sometimes went months at a time without a day off from one or the other.
Last spring, as I was able to spend a week camping in Big Bend and a week in Christ of the Desert Monastery in New Mexico, more than ever before I saw the need and felt the benefit of this time of Sabbath. My soul was refreshed. I was energized not just for ministry but also for my God. My faith grew. My creativity and vision for the ministry God had me in grew. And I committed to keep a Sabbath of sorts in my daily and weekly life.
Fast forward a few months to beginning the pastorate. Lists and lists and lists of all possible tasks lay on my desks. Bible studies need preparing. Sermon needs researching. People need visiting. Vision of Church need thinking through. Meetings need planning. And on and on the lists go and so quickly did the Sabbath come to be once again a theoretical ideal of a simpler and easier time.
I have been struggling over the past two or three weeks. I haven’t had the same joy, or energy, or even love I feel that I had for ministry since I arrived in Marble Falls. It was hard to get out of bed in the morning. I had to force myself to do so many of the tasks that should come as a natural outflow of my life. I was discouraged and pessimistic.
But Sabbath made itself available. Saturday was a day of rest. Kelley and I slept in, spent lots of good time together, and even cleaned the house. Yesterday afternoon I watched the Cowboy’s, took a really long walk with Kelley and had wonderful conversation.
And today, I read. And I prayed. I took Max to the Vet and got my oil changed, and ran errands, and I’m going home to cook dinner; but, I also got lost in thought over where God is leading our Church. I called a good friend from Seminary and shared what was going on in my life and heard how God was moving in his.
And this afternoon I find my soul refreshed. I feel creative, joyful, and inspired to pastor as I haven’t in a few weeks.
Friends, I fully understand (in my naïve pastoral world in which I live) that I am blessed to have a day off like this to spend as I will when most of the world is forced to work. I have come to the realization that I can’t really complain about my schedule much because most everyone I want to complain to is busier than I.
I recognize your busyness; but, I encourage you to practice Sabbath in some way. Carve out time for you. Time to do what makes you happy, where you feel God’s pleasure in your leisure. Time to pray and read and maybe study. Time simply to think and let your mind wander and show you something new. Time to free your soul from all that constrains it and allow it to soar to refreshing and invigorating heights.
Practice Sabbath. Your faith, your work, your family, your ministry, truly YOU, will be better for it as you commune soul to soul with our Savior and sustainer. This I have experience today.