Last Tuesday, I was reflecting with a colleague about life. Alisa asked the very Wesleyan question that often makes me eyes well up with tears, "How is it with your soul?" As a pastor, not many people ask me this question. It is a question that we clergy are good at asking and not necessarily good at answering. Alisa's question hit me in the gut - right where I needed to be hit. I responded with tears welling up inside, "Not well." I then continued, "I have been running from one place to the next. My prayer-life has been suffering. My devotional life has been inactive. It has been a long time since I have really had Sabbath." I then shared how I have a retreat at a nearby abbey coming up in March, but how I am not sure it is possible to get a year's worth of devotional time and Sabbath keeping done in one week.
Alisa responded as we departed, "I'll be praying for rest and renewal for you."
Rest and renewal have come.
In the last four days, I have had ample time to sit at the kitchen table and look out the window at the beauty of creation. I have seized the opportunity to catch up with former parishioners who are dear friends who have nourished my soul for almost ten years. I have read about ten issues of the Christian Century. I have savored my morning devotional time, even sharing a part of it with Craig. I have cuddled on the couch with Craig, laughed heartily through four different movies, and exercised until our muscles were soar as we took walks and shoveled snow. I have prepared balanced meals and sat down to dinner with him each evening. I have slept nine hours each night and have allowed my body to wake when it wants to and not when a buzzer tells me to wake up. I have experienced balance. I have experienced rest. I have been reminded again why the Lord has commanded us to rest on the seventh day of every week.
And, I have, once again, been reminded of the incredible gift of being a pastor at Mount Vernon Place. With the snow piled high and the above ground Metro not running, I did not make it to worship yesterday. Twenty-five people did, however. One member served as the security concierge since our employee who fills this role could not make it. Another member organized a time of sharing around the two scripture passages that had been selected for the day. Our Director of Music and the Arts made sure everything was ready and filled in on the instruments since our organist could not make it. Everyone made sure the other details were taken care of. And, I heard it was a powerful time of worship and sharing. I have been told by a few people how great the day was.
Many of my conversations with young adults who are working hard in the city have to deal with finding rest and renewal. The most common thing I hear from people who were not in church on any given Sunday is, "I'm sorry. I had to work again." Or, "Work is really getting to me. I just could not make it to worship today."
I know how often I tell my husband the same thing. "I'm sorry. I won't be home again until 9:00 tonight because I have a meeting." Or "I'm sorry. I cannot go to that function with you because I'll be at the church." Or "I'm sorry. I do not want to go to that party that you have been looking forward to attending because I am just so exhausted from the work of the church."
I am convinced that God does not smile upon these times. I'll never forget one Annual Conference when I sat next to a mother who shared with me how she and her husband were missing their child's sixth grade graduation because of the annual meeting of the church. What meeting of the church could possibly be more important than being present for a milestone marker of a child?
God created us to work hard for six days. God then invited us to rest and to worship on the seventh day. We have been called to work heartily for six days and to then set aside one day for God, for our families, for rest, and for renewal. Even God rested one day. Is our work more important than God's? How often our work becomes a false idol - I know I am guilty of this.
I need to remember this week. I need to remember how I am not always needed. I need to remember how the church does just fine when I am not there. I need to remember how one of the best things I can do is to take care of myself and my family. I need to recall how important it is to rest in God's arms, enjoying the gift of a Sabbath. It's a commandment, after all.
Thank you, God, for this precious time. Help me to take a snow day even when the grass is green!