Sabbath and Soul Junk
Reflections on a pastor's day off.

Monday has been my off day for years, ever since I started working in a church, with the long exception of having to be on-call at Sweet Holy Spirit for administrative matters. Back then, it wasn't strange to get a minutes long call from our accountant or from a co-worker that changed the direction of the week. Those Mondays are distant, though I hardly forget them.

Usually by Monday, since Sunday is traditionally a longer work day for pastors, I've lived through the equivalent of a work week with the compressed emotions of half a second one. There has been the previous week itself. It will bring with it conversations that stop me, meetings that unsettle me, group chats where someone is inevitably struggling with faith, offered counsel that helps or hurts people, conflicts left open for too long. There are projections about the future of the church, potential partnerships or courses of action. Quiet is seldom found without effort. There is the loneliness that feels like a heavy blanket in summer. There is the balancing of my own soul.

By Monday, my sleep has been disturbed for a few days in a row, dealing both with the expectation of Sunday and all that it brings and the throbbing exhaustion that comes afterward. Sleep will catch up to me by the next day usually, but when Monday comes, I'm somewhere in the middle of looking at the day for the deep breath it will bring and planning for the week, even though I'm trying not to plan. The busy tapping of my phone tells me that there is an email or a text. I check it, only to see if it's from someone whose text I actually read on Mondays, a tiny list of loved ones whose requests are of a slightly different order.

On Mondays I do much less. Sometimes I fall into the mode of catching up with things at my address. There are errands to run for myself. Things Dawn has asked me to do. There is laundry and dishes and remnants from the previous night's dinner, and all the things in everyone else's home. There is the smell of urine that comes from the place where my son tossed his pajamas that morning, and the sneaky feeling that I'll never stop cleaning the tile and washing the sheets, that I'll go to work smelling of my boy's liquids. I remember the conversation about reintroducing pull ups for the overnight shift, and I feel that aching familiar feeling of failure that never totally leaves. It's one of those reminders in my life that I need grace.

For a long time I think about meaningful moments from the previous week. And I try to think about nothing at all. But I'm not successful. There is the crammed calendar and the list of things. This week there is one more sermon in the current series. There are the big anchors of the upcoming message rolling around in my head and falling to my feet. There is the nagging persistence that what I preach matters and doesn't. There is the slow, night-time work of an assignment due before the end of next week. There is the upward and onward motion of not wanting to stop and the competing better desire to quit for a bit.

August 22, 2013
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