My “Sabbath” is Monday. Like many pastors I do this very intentionally. Sundays are just chaotic, and overwhelming for introverted folks like me. Easter weekend amplifies this situation considerably. We did a communion service Friday, a SONrise service at 9am on Sunday, followed by Breakfast, followed by our 11am service, which featured 4 baptisms. It was phenomenally powerful on all accounts. Tears of joy were flowing, people were hearing from God in new and encouraging ways. It’s been many years since Centre Street has had 4 baptisms on the same day (plus 2 more last December). Good things are happening.
On the flip side, that sort of pace takes a toll. On top of all that Easter goodness, there’s the Church’s two bible studies (each of Pastor’s leading one) plus the Marriage Course, plus our regular, ongoing outreach projects and planning for upcoming events. And then, on top of this, our Sr. Pastor had a medical emergency in the family taking him out of the office for two days. A multi-pastor staff is great when it can be done as passing the baton back and forth is sometimes necessary.
Anyway, the point of this all… Spiritual “highs” often meet with a “crash” afterwards. Sunday afternoon is usually enough time to recover. Sometimes it carries over into Monday (hence the Monday off) when something big has happened. But every now and then I find Tuesday morning tough. I still feel depleted. Well, here I am on a Wednesday afternoon, third cup of coffee on the go, eyes drooping, head pounding (maybe because of the excessive coffee…) and feeling “zonked”.
Ok, that sounds like complaining, or looking for sympathy. That’s not how I mean it. Easter was such a glorious and encouraging day. I feel so blessed to have been a part of it. People heard and saw the gospel right in front of them. I am so thankful to God for the chance to baptize these young women, and proclaim new life. I’m reflecting out loud as I discover the depth of this spiritual/ministry truth.
It’s a hard thing to explain exactly how it works; the “hangover” which comes after pouring yourself out into worship and proclamation. It certainly isn’t physically strenuous activity. But afterwards you feel exhausted, drained, “empty” even.
I think this goes along with Paul’s comment to the Romans to be a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Jesus, we are told, “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7- ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν in the Greek, which the NIV translates as “made himself nothing”). Jesus poured himself out, removed himself for his people. Emptied himself of everything. Sacrificing self can be grueling on the body, mind and spirit. God has prescribed rest for a reason. Not just for pastors, but for all of us. Written into our lives is a time of peace, quiet, rest, and seeking revitalization. Our church has term limits in place, and encourages a “year off” for many of our lay leaders, so they have a cycle which includes rest; a time of renewal and refreshment, a Sabbath year if you will. God commanded Israel to give the land rest, “But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards” (Leviticus 25:4). Part of being finite is that there is a limit to what we (all of creation) can give with sustainability.
Pastor Dorman is now on vacation- a much needed time of peace and allowing himself to be free to enjoy peace. I head to Beaverton in less than two weeks for four days of worshiping and encouragement with other pastors. To any pastors out there- build these times into the cycle of the church year. Post-Easter, Post-Christmas, and summer time is a time where rest is needed. Take the time. Also around any other major church occasions, it is so vital to find renewal. It’s not just about having time away, but time away at the right times. Our world has seasons. Our lives have seasons also. Right now, our church has seen rebirth, and having been in two birthing rooms, I have seen what bringing new life does to the body and the rest which must come afterwards. Ok, that analogy has serious limits. I am not claiming to have produced this life. In that scenario, I’m more like the midwife than the mom. But point is bringing a baby into the world drains the folks involved.
Seek the Lord. Find times and places to be filled. Jesus took time apart. In Mark 6:46, we are told that after the monumental feeding of 5000, “he went up on mountainside to pray”. He finds solitude to rest from the demands of serving selflessly.
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” ~Mark 2:27