Ministerial Musings: A Time To Rest

As I write this article, I am preparing to depart on a two week vacation. I will be heading to my parent’s camp, located on a beautiful lake in southern Maine, with my three children. My wife will be heading to Namibia in South Africa as part of an immersion mission trip for her seminary education.

Some people feel uneasy about taking vacations. “The boss will be upset.” “I really should be working all the time; isn’t that what it means to have a strong work-ethic.” Vacations actually make us better workers. It gives us a time of respite so that we can return to work rejuvenated, better equipped to deal with our daily demands.

But vacations are more than that. They should not just be seen as means to an end: we rest so we can work harder. Vacation is Sabbath time.

Sabbath is a biblical concept. It begins in the earliest pages of Scripture. God creates the earth (be it metaphorically or literal) in six days. On the seventh day God rests from all the work of Creation. Ancient Israel was also called to let the earth rest every seventh year from the strain of cultivation.

If God needs relaxation, and even the land needs a breather, then is it too hard to believe that we need to rest, too?

But Sabbath rest isn’t just about refreshing our bodies. It is more about replenishing our souls: taking time to feed our spirits with the Spirit of the Living God. This is not something we need to do every seven years, seven months, seven weeks, or even seven days. Our souls need Sabbath time each week (hence the Christian practice of weekly worship) and, dare I say, they need it every day!

Most of us neglect our daily Sabbath time. We do not carve space in our busy schedules to pray, to read the Scriptures, and to simply sit in the stillness and make ourselves aware of the presence of God that surrounds us.

When people want to lose weight or get in shape, they develop an exercise routine that is often arduous. After about a week, they lose their ambition. We need to push ourselves.

After a few weeks, we get used to driving to the health club during our lunch hour or getting up at the crack of dawn to jog in the Metroparks.

The same is true of developing spiritual disciplines. We dust off our Bibles. Some of us start with Genesis 1:1 and try to read cover to cover. Others start with the New Testament. In any event, we lose steam. We either try to do something too ambitious (such as reading the entire Bible in one year) or we encounter large chunks of text that we find tedious to absorb. As a result, we give up.

The same can be said of our prayer life. We say we will pray at a particular time ever day (be it when we awake or before we go to sleep), but then we skip a day because we are so busy. One day leads to two, which leads to a week, which leads to us abandoning the entire endeavor.

We need to start slow. We need to devote a specific amount of time each day — even if it is just five minutes — to pray, to immerse ourselves in God’s Word, and to even meditate in silence. We also need to adopt forms of prayer and to read parts of Scripture that we enjoy. From there, we can increase the time we spend meditating and expand the texts we want to study, be it The Bible or the writings of great devotionalists.

They key is to start somewhere, to find Sabbath time each day.

The nineteenth century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed it this way: “Day of the Lord, as all our days should be!” Amen to that!

John Tamilio III, the religion columnist for The Lakewood Observer, is the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in the Tremont neighborhood. Currently, he is writing his dissertation for his PhD and is pulling what little hair he has left out while he does.

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Volume 6, Issue 16, Posted 8:28 AM, 08.11.2010