From the very beginning of creation, God built in time to rest and renew. In the creation story in Genesis, God rested on the seventh day and blessed it as a day of rest. (Genesis 2:2-3) Later in the book of Exodus, God provided bread and meat for the people of God wandering in the desert and God made provisions to give them enough for 2 days on the sixth day so that they didn’t need to gather and cook on the day of rest. (Exodus 16:5) The Biblical stories and commandments are clear that times of rest and renewal, Sabbath times, are an important part of God’s design and desire for human beings. So why does it seem so hard to incorporate Sabbath time into our lives?
One of the blessings our bishop has given me, is his clear support and direction to clergy to schedule Sabbath time into their weeks and into their years. This life of discipleship and ministry, whether ordained or lay, is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a life-long process that incorporates the different demands and rhythms of each phase of life. Sabbath time may look different in different seasons of life, but its importance is unchanging.
This summer I took eight weeks of Sabbath time in a renewal leave for the first time in my 20+ years of ministry. The COVID virus ended all the plans I had made with my husband to travel. As my leave began, it seemed like every time we made plans an obstacle (often the COVID virus) got in the way. After a few very frustrating days, I decided that maybe the Lord was trying to steer me in a different direction, so I decided to let go of plans and see what happened. As the leave unfolded, the Lord steered me back to family over and over again. In my years of ministry, I have tried to balance the needs of the church and the needs of my family sometimes one taking precedence and sometimes the other. Still though, I have often had to tell my family “no” because of obligations at the church. This summer God used most of my Sabbath time as a time to say “yes” to my family. My husband and I visited my parents twice and each of our four adult children at least twice and spent time with our youngest grandchildren. My husband and I were able to live a different rhythm since he retired just as my leave began. We decided we really enjoyed it! Being with these most important people was both renewing and refreshing and something I will treasure throughout the year.
I also spent time reading and reflecting on racism. I read the two books recommended by our bishop, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibran X. Kendi. I found both books to be challenging and helpful. I also looked into my own family history to see how race and economic privilege has been interwoven in my ancestors and family. I will leave those reflections for next time.
Thank you to our bishop for his encouragement and support in taking Sabbath time. Thank you to my District Superintendent teammates, Dan Morley, N. Susan Brims, and Matt Ashley for covering my district for me, and Carla Whitmire for being an awesome administrative assistant. Thank you to my new District Lay Leader, Jeannie Ward, and Associate Lay Leaders, Sandy Kerr, John Huie, and Joyce Trevolt for their support and leadership. It takes a community to be the body of Christ and I am grateful to be part of this body.
I invite you to prioritize Sabbath time this week!