Demands on leaders' time and energy don't seem to end. We reason: because there are needs, we are the ones to meet them. That false logic prevents us from following God's command to take a day of rest, and enables us to reject Jesus' invitation: come to me and rest.
What does Sabbath look like? Could you practice it? Can your soul afford not to? Here's a peek into my family's practice of a day of worship and rest. It's not perfect, but it is essential to ministry. (This essay first appeared on my blog, Deep Breathing for the Soul. Come by and visit anytime.)
Fire, fierce and warming, glows in the worn brick fireplace in my family room. The washing machine swishes steady in the background.
Sabbath is over, but glows like an ember in the early darkness of an autumn evening.
Sabbath crept in unannounced at sundown Saturday, as we had dinner with friends at their home. I'd helped those friends by watching their kids for the afternoon (although I adore those kids so it was joy for me to do so). So Sabbath began with a meal around a table with friends. Conversation with kids and adults was peppered with moments of depth, and moments of wiping up spilled Gatorade. After dinner, the dads and kids played Wii bowling. At the kids' bedtime (early) we went home and went to bed. (A key Sabbath practice: just getting enough sleep).
Sunday morning my son had an early meeting with his small group leader, my daughter went to lead her small group in the 3-year old room, and my husband and I went to church. We went in different directions, but all experienced community. Thanks to texting, we kept in touch through the day.
After church I came home and lounged on the couch, reading. My daughter read and napped upstairs. My son sent a text that he was going out to lunch with friends. I read a newspaper article about walking in the woods. So I decided I needed a walk in the woods on this cool but sunny fall afternoon. Milkweed loosed its hold on fluffy contents, ancient pear trees in a meadow held their fruit even though their leaves had already fallen. The blue sky over a patch of prairie made me nostalgic for the covered wagons of my ancestors (even though on that prairie in a suburban forest preserve, I can hear the drone of a plane overhead and the muffled swish of nearby traffic).
I came home, puttered a bit in the garden, simply enjoying the beautiful afternoon. I cannot think of a more perfect sort of day than one I can spend outside (wearing a sweatshirt and down vest and jeans) playing in the garden. I divided perennials, snipped and trimmed a few branches. Breathed in fall air, talked with and listened to Jesus.
Later, I made roasted carrots and parsnips, baked potatoes and pork chops with apples and onions. My daughter and I snacked on the carrots and parsnips, and she took notes on how I make my pork chop recipe. "I'm glad you're a good cook," she said. "I'm glad you're not a picky eater," I replied. "Though those two might be related." We talked about college applications, which led to a conversation on our Myers-Briggs profiles. We got too full from eating all the carrots to even want the dinner, so I left it on the stove until my son came home later.
Sabbath is a day when I am never too busy to do what I am doing. Where structure is released, and we can eat an entire baking sheet of roasted vegetables and not worry about whether all the food groups were adequately represented.
My son came home and sat down to devour the pork chops and a baked potato. He told me about his day. I listened. I had nothing else I needed to do, nowhere else I needed to go.