Sometimes, I admit that I am preaching to the choir. With that said, I want to take the time to talk about the importance of Sabbath for those who are servant leaders. While I was a pastor at Saint Clair Shores First UMC, one of the youth asked if she could job shadow me for a week, as part of a school assignment. We sat down to talk about my usual weekly schedule. As complicated as it was for her, it was the first time that I actually sat down to make a list of how I spent each week. We were both amazed at how many hours I worked on a week that did not include funerals, weddings, unplanned hospital visits or other pastoral care needs. I discussed with her, how for me, a portion of what I do each day, and each week, is based on the needs of the people I serve.
I can honestly say that there was no conversation around how I took time away to renew my spirit, feed my soul and spend time exploring my relationship with God. I know that I am not alone. So much of what we do as elders, deacons, local pastors, lay ministers, lay speakers, and lay leaders is task driven. No matter how you prepare for a sermon, it takes time. Life interferes with plans. Even if we are conscientious about our own sacred time, there are days we will lose, because we must sit with a family, plan for a wedding, prepare for a funeral or manage some of our administrative responsibilities. More often than we care to admit, the first thing we set aside is our own Sabbath time. Intentionally or not, we place our self care on a shelf.
We keep going and going and going. And what begins as a couple of weeks, before we realize it, becomes a few months without a break. Our bodies and our spirits may send us warning signs. It’s harder to focus. We experience a few sleepless nights. Or it’s harder to get started in the morning. Our energy level is low, and we can’t seem to raise it through our usual spiritual practices. We can’t remember when we last spent time away, investing in those things that help us relax.
We will be unable to effectively care for others, if we fail to care for ourselves first. If, for whatever reason, your scheduled day off doesn’t happen within a week, find another day to step away for a time of rest, reflection, rejuvenation and renewal. May the Lord bless you in all that you do. And Amen.