Give yourself a break

  • Saturday, September 1, 2018 1:30am
  • Opinion

Being a pastor is a fascinating profession. We’re invited into powerful moments in the lives of people like weddings, a hospital bed side, newborn babies or a lost job.

Some joke that pastors only work on Sunday, but somehow Monday-Saturday can fill up quickly with counseling appointments, meetings with groups in the church, helping a staff team, meeting other leaders in the wider community and tending to the needs of a physical building.

Maybe you have a vague sense that pastors and priests are super spiritual and calm people who pray all day. I’ve met a lot of spiritual pastors but none of them are immune to the fast pace of this world we live in.

As technology speeds up, it feels like we’re on a treadmill, going uphill, with resistance. And it feels like someone is slowly increasing the speed when we’re not looking.

We know this speed isn’t good for our bodies, our minds or our hearts. We can feel disconnected in our closest relationships. The screens shout for our attention while our bodies whisper, “take care of me so I can feel alive.” It’s almost as if we glance at our soul but we simply can’t get off the treadmill. It’s addicting, predictable and comfortable.

The good news is that there is a pattern built into our world to help us slow down. It’s called sabbath. It’s a different way of being in a busy world. We’re invited to rest and play. We remember joy, laughter, good food and the gift of being truly present to the people in front of us. We reconnect with nature and sink deeply into the truth that we are loved, even before we check anything off our to do list.

How does that sound to you? Many of us love to be productive but a small part of us cries out for true rest from the drive to achieve and get ahead.

This summer, I took a renewal leave. In my denomination, pastors get four weeks off every four years to simply remember who they are, apart from their work as pastor.

It was a glorious four weeks full of quiet reflection by the water, taking the scenic route, rarely setting a morning alarm, reading, hiking, running through the sprinkler and dancing in the kitchen with my children. Nature was dripping with heaven. Everywhere I looked, I breathed in the green leaves, the sun shining on the water, the bird that flew overhead.

With fewer things begging for my attention, I was free to focus my gaze on God all around me. I stayed off social media (mostly) for four weeks and checked email only occasionally. I noticed the warmth of the sun on my skin. I felt the breeze move through my hair. I noticed the sounds of my kids’ laughter. I kissed my husband like I meant it. I rocked on my swing and listened to the world. I struggled some days with the pace and the lack of productivity. I cried by the water. I danced in the kitchen.

And it was enough. You likely can’t take four weeks away for something like this. But you can take 30 minutes or an afternoon. Pause the treadmill and step off. You might find exactly what you didn’t know you needed.

Marysville United Methodist Church pastor Jenny Smith writes a monthly faith column for the newspaper.

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