Learning to Sabbath Daily

People in ministry generally are infamous for our never-ending lists.  As a “Type-A” person, I’ve found that there is no such thing as a completed list. In fact, the unfortunate truth is that even the needs of people can become just another item on the to-do list. When people feel more like a burden than a blessing, ministry can become genuinely depressing.

It is incredibly easy to believe that the struggles of the people you minister to are a reflection of your competence as a leader.  If you don’t take care of yourself before your sphere of influence, how will you be able to properly influence them?

One of the scripture passages that has been of great assistance to me is the one in Matthew 16 where Jesus’ disciples come back from their first commission, exhausted. Jesus takes them away to get rest, but the crowds catch up to them wanting more. I’m sure you can relate–you finally take your Sabbath and have a day off, but then a parent calls or you’re dumb enough to check your email.

But what happens in this passage? Jesus tells the disciples to go rest, and then he takes the crowd. He continues to teach them as the disciples rest. Then when the disciples wake up and want to eat, Jesus performs a miracle, feeding 5,000 men and their families with just a few fish and loaves of bread.

This is profound: Jesus saw the disciples needed rest, so he gave it. Even when there were things on the to-do list that were really important. In fact, he provided a miracle so that rest could happen for not only the disciples, but the crowd that they ministered to.

I wonder if one of the disciples pushed back? I’m sure one probably said, “Jesus, no, I can handle this! What I’m doing is important—I don’t need to rest!”

What is Sabbath for you? What are the things that reset you?

One of my sixth-grade boys asked me last week when we read this passage together, “If God hadn’t rested on the 7th day of creation, would everything be perfect?”  His question blew my mind, but more so reminds me of the mindset our culture has: more work is better. Busy means that you’re important. You can reach the end of your to-do list because that is what will make people like you and think you are competent.

“If God hadn’t rested on the 7th day of creation, would everything be perfect?”Sixth Grade Boy
When I look at my life, I see no plausible way to take a break from life and not do anything. Usually I spend my Sabbath doing the things I didn’t have time to do the other days-grocery shop, pay bills, laundry. But I understand the Biblical mandate for Sabbath is important because it’s God’s way of saying, “You need to take a breath and let me take care of you.”

I’m realizing more and more that when you work in ministry, Sabbath isn’t a day of the week. It’s more of a lifestyle. This thought helps me create more balance every day of my life, rather than just one day–especially when you have one of those weeks where you have no days for Sabbath because of a mission trip or retreat.

For me: Sabbath is in a morning devotion time, in prayer on the way to work, in taking time at the end of the day to breathe. Sabbath is getting 8 hours of sleep at night, at doing a hobby that brings me ease. Sabbath for me is when I go get an Americano and browse thrift stores. Sabbath is time with friends. Sabbath is cooking. Sabbath is reading a book “for fun.”  Sabbath is attending a worship service or concert. Sabbath is taking time away from the busyness and connecting to God and to the things that make your soul reset.

This mindset also helps me have a better day of Sabbath when they do come along—a day of Sabbath where my energy isn’t trying to catch up on all the things I missed the last 6 days but is truly resting and resetting for the next day.

What is Sabbath for you? What are the things that reset you?


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