This past week I gave a pair of talks on Sabbath to a group of clergy. Because of the unpredictability of pastoral needs, plus the fact that Sunday is a work day, clergy often find it difficult to take a day of rest and rejuvenation each week. They can plan a certain day off, but often pastoral emergencies, funerals and parish needs will interrupt, and clergy find themselves facing another week without any time to reconnect with the God they have sworn to serve.
I’ve discovered that there are certain similarities between the lives of clergy and the lives of freelancers who are working to get their businesses up and running. I find it difficult to say no to any job because I am well aware of the ebb and flow of freelancing work. I find myself wanting to build up as many clients as possible, so that the work is steady—even if sometimes that means it is overwhelming. Between my spiritual and my editing and writing work, I cannot recall a day when I did not do something for one “job” or the other.
This is not conducive to a balanced life—but unfortunately it is the norm in our culture. We have become human doings instead of human beings. We are a long way from the days when my paternal granddad insisted on a work-free Sunday, taking his family for drives and picnics in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. He was a very strict Presbyterian and I imagine that his Sabbath observance often arose from a legalistic approach to the Gospel, but I feel the need to mimic the spirit behind his taking a day off, even if I don’t make the time to head out on a picnic every Sunday.
Sunday is a work day at our house—especially today, as Holy Trinity is having a work day to finish preparing our new retreat center for its first group of guests this week. I didn’t have time yesterday to take a full day off—but I did make time to pray, and when my prayer time was officially over, I found I could not move from the chair. My body—and spirit—craved more. And so I sat, and dozed, for another half hour or so. When I was conscious I silently invited God to be with me. Eventually I found my body willing to move again, and the idea for this blog in my head, so I returned to the computer, refreshed and ready for at least a little more work.
I began my first presentation to the clergy last week with a 4-minute guided meditation which took them to a place that was sacred to them, and invited them into a conversation with Jesus, then an opportunity to just sit with him in silence and reflection. I then told them that, just as many in our culture now take Power Naps, they had just experienced a Power Sabbath. It’s a first step toward regaining that critical balance of action and contemplation, work and stillness, in a culture that’s become obsessed with activity and accomplishment.
When was the last time you took an entire day off from “work,” however you need to define that term? How might you seek to regain some sense of Sabbath in your life?