Sunday was a good day for the congregation that I lead. It was the first time I told them I had nothing to give them. I was wrung out from the events of last week and I needed to hear from God that day. In my 20’s I wouldn’t have even been aware I was worn out. In my 30’s I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know I was worn out. In my early 40’s I wouldn’t have let myself take the time off. But Sunday, during the welcome, I opened my heart and exposed its emptiness without apology. It has taken 27 years in ministry for me to think that’s normal.
What’s normal for many (if not most) pastors is very different.
Yesterday a friend and I had a conversation about that. She asked me, “Why are pastors the only ones who feel bad about taking a day off, apologize for going on vacation and feel like they need to explain purchases and how they use their leisure time?” My response: “I don’t know.” But since then I’ve had time to think about it….
- I thought I was supposed to be on duty 24/7 365. Not true. Not biblical. We have it completely backwards. We’re not on 24/7 but God has commanded we be off 24 hours out of every 7 days. There are rare times when tragedy strikes but these are the exception rather than the rule.
- I thought I was supposed to be all things to all people and our church was supposed to provide all things to all people. Not true. Not possible. In the often misquoted reference to 1 Corinthians 9, Paul was talking about finding common ground with people not being the answer to their every need.
- I thought everyone in the congregation had a say. Not true. Not realistic. While pastors are responsible and accountable to the congregation, most structures employ a leadership team that gives direction. They are to live in the tension and work for the health of both the pastor and the church.
- I feared people’s disapproval. Ouch. Most of us in ministry really want to be liked and want others to be happy. We sometimes confuse the role of consensus and think our job is to keep everyone playing nice in the sandbox. Often we’ll sacrifice time for us and our families just to avoid disappointing someone else.
- I didn’t trust God to be God. Double ouch. Many of us forget the Kingdom was doing just fine before we arrived and will keep on going when we depart. It is God’s church and His people and He is capable of handling it.
If you’re a pastor…Take your day off every week. Go on vacation and use all the time you are granted. Turn your phone off periodically throughout the week. Stop apologizing about following the 4th commandment. Listen to your spouse…if they think you’re spending too much time at work you probably are.
If you’re a congregant…Talk to God before you call your pastor. Respect her/his time off. Be careful how you talk at the dinner table so you don’t instill unreal expectations in the next generation. Invite me in to give your pastor a break and help your church better understand the need for this.
Most of this disfunction comes from a neglect of true Sabbath. If I’ve learned one thing over the years it’s “Abuse of Sabbath is cumulative.” Things may seem fine now but at some point the wheels are going to come off because we weren’t created to live at the pace many of us our living.
“So, Sabbath.” That’s what a friend said when I sat down at the table with him before our leadership meeting last night. He had read the epiphany I posted on yesterday’s blog. We talked about the topic and my experience of landing on it and what this all might look like. But the comment that stood out was when he said, “Sabbath is so countercultural.”
Bob didn’t mean it to be an intimidating statement, but it was. I immediately thought, “Am I prepared to confront the consumer-driven convenience-based mentality……that dwells in the culture, the church and in ME?” That’s what I’ve sat with the last couple days as I have read articles, continue to compile my book list and fiddle with outlines.
As I scan library catalogs and amazon I’m struck with how many great resources have already been written on the topic. This seems to have awakened the monster of doubt who occasionally bullies me with shouts of, “Who do you think you are?” and “What could you possibly have to offer?”
You’ve heard that voice, haven’t you: The one who tries to pop your balloon, rain on your parade, take the wind out of your sails? For the record – that is not the voice of God. God has been reassuring me and calling me forward…silencing the shouts of the other. One of the things God used this morning is found here, on Joey O’Connor’s blog.
I’m not sure what future God is calling you into but my prayer is that we will be attentive to divine possibilities and not succumb to the shouts of the accuser or pessimist inside us.
I read this on Donald Miller’s blog this week:
- “What if your own life was so engaging that entertainment seemed boring? I mean what if you were involved in projects that so captivated you that turning on the television would be a distraction from your real life? Can you imagine such a possibility?”
Writing books has been a long time dream for me. More specifically (and even more honestly) books that open doors to speaking engagements which in turn sell more books.
I know there are countless authors with more skill, intelligence and connections. I know there are over a million books submitted each year. I know it is very difficult to make a living as a writer. Yet in spite of those realities, the dream never goes away. In my nearly 49 years on earth I think I’ve only gotten a few peeks at that possibility becoming a reality. But this week it was like God started to pull back the curtains on an issue I am passionate about and bring focus to a project that moves me.
I believe the need for a 24 hour period of rest is hard wired into us. It is not a Jewish thing. It is a human thing. No matter your faith, belief system or philosophy you were created in the image of a God who rested. “But I enjoy what I do.” I’m pretty sure God enjoyed creating – but He rested. “But things need to get done that only I can accomplish.” I’m pretty sure God was aware of the list of things only He could do – but He rested. “But I don’t have time to.” I’m pretty sure God established this unit of time to establish rhythm for our life.
This is not an appeal to attend church regularly. Nor is it an admonishment to carve out some ‘me time.’ This is about connecting with the Divine in a way that makes me; more human, more healthy, more fulfilled, more peaceful and more whole. This is about the observance and remembrance of Sabbath, which has been overlooked and forgotten for far too long.
So mark it down. Today, March 23 2011, you read my blog declaring I am captivated by such a notion and I give myself to this project. Ask me about it whenever you see me. Email me and hold me accountable. Pray for me when God brings me to mind.