Lent is an incredibly busy time. There are extra worship services (Taize, ecumenical activities, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunrise), there are preparations to be made for those services, there are special activities (Financial workshop, Immigration classes) as well as our usual meetings and planning. In my own family, there are birthdays during this time , as well as in the congregation surgeries and hospitalizations – all of it takes up time, takes energy, takes work. Much of it is good, but it is busy. I know you find the same. There is stuff to be done, lots of it, and time to rest is just not in the cards for many of us.
And yet, one of our basic commandments, one of the ten biggies, focuses on taking a day of Sabbath each week, a day of rest, an intentional time to not be busy, every single week. It is a commandment, not a suggestion, not a recommendation, but a commandment. Frankly, I think this commandment, one of the ones that is most life-giving to all of us, is the hardest one of the ten to keep. Not many kill others, not many of us steal, and I hope not many of us cheat on our spouses or partners. We try not to speak slander against our neighbors, we work hard not to covet what we can’t have, and we try to be respectful of our parents. I don’t think worshiping other gods or making graven images is an issue for most of us. All of these are obvious to us in their value, and we work hard to keep them. But keeping the Sabbath? Taking a day where we truly do not do work, do not do errands, do not run taxi services for our kids and grandkids, do not run around but simply rest? This is something most of us simply don’t do.
I write this from the place of being one of those who is not good at following this commandment. I am not good at it. Period. I’m aware of it. I’m aware of the need for a time of rest, a need for a time to not be running around crazy. Yesterday, though, brought this home for me again in a very concrete way. I was struggling to find something to write my newsletter article about. I had made four different attempts at writing something and each time the subject and my writing on the subject fell flat, only to be discarded. Sandy said, “go for a hike. It clears your mind and you will think better.”
“Ha!” was my reply, “Hiking is not in the cards today or any day this week or next.” I proceeded to talk through the day, every hour of which, until 11PM as it turned out, was scheduled with an activity that could not be postponed or moved. A meeting to plan the Far East Presbytery meeting, a visit to the hospital to see a parishioner, a meeting about a problem going on with one of our members, preparing for Thursday evening Bible study, preparing for my lesson in handbells with the church kids for Sunday, finishing worship for Sunday evening. And when work was over? Driving a child to tutoring, driving another child to dance, the kids’ school band concert, a quick run to the grocery store and then helping kids with homework until late, late, late. Today’s schedule is worse between three different meetings, visits to two parishioners, writing this newsletter, working on my sermon for Sojourner Truth, Bible study this evening, more taxi service for a child who has counseling and another who has dance…and today is Aislynn’s birthday, so somewhere in there dinner and presents must be squished. A hike? A nap? A rest? Not realistic at all.
And then as I was heading out the door to take said child to tutoring, I picked up the devotional book that Lyle had graciously given me and in a hurry, in a “I really should look at this before dashing to my next thing” mood, I opened to the day’s entry.
“The idea of a day of rest was not just ceremonial, but necessary to survival. If we are to live full and healthy lives, we all need occasional rest.” 1
Bam. Message received, God. Always, message received. But today? Message ignored because there are all these things that I MUST do. Hm.
The reality is, when we don’t get enough rest, we are not the people God calls us to be. I see this in myself. I become snippy, short, tired, weary. Without my reserves, I am not the patient mom, I am not the pastor who listens, I am not the friend who is giving, I am not the person that I strive hard to be. I don’t take time to do the things I value the most: making phone calls, reaching out, writing thank you notes, expressing gratitude and appreciation both to God and to those around me, when I don’t have the energy to do those things. I don’t write well, I don’t think clearly, and I am not as kind as I want to be. I can’t speak for all of you. But it would not surprise me to find that you, too, need that day of rest to rejuvenate and to be the people God calls you to be.
Lent is a time of self-reflection. It is a time for repentance, for looking hard at the things we need to change and making an effort to actually change those things. For me, that change looks like it needs to start with intentionality around Sabbath. So I’ve put it on the calendar for next week: a day of rest. And I will strive to do this for the rest of lent as well.
Is this something that is a challenge for you too? Do you take the time to rest, to pray, to meditate, to be with yourself and God in an intentional way and with intentional time each week? Rest will help you to think clearly, love more fully, face the days' challenges with strength. It is a commandment given to us out of love because God wants wholeness for us, wants health for us, wants us to have meaningful and productive lives. Blessings to you as we all move forward on our journeys. May you find times of rest this lenten season.
1. Haberman, Hardy, Shouts in the Wilderness (Fl: Adynaton Publishing, 2017) p77