Confession...I had told my family that I would do better about taking Sabbath...and I haven't.
But I'm not alone...
But that doesn't make it right...
I realized yesterday that I've been home 3 nights since the Tuesday before Easter. That was 25 days ago, and I've been home with my girls 3 nights since then.
But I'm not alone...and that still doesn't make it right.
This past week my heart has been broken for some of my colleagues, brothers and sisters in Christ, who I see are heading for exactly where I was last summer...total burnout. I've heard them say things like: "I've not had a day off in 3 weeks..." or: "I've looked at my calendar and my next day off is in June...or July..." or, like me, "I've just come off of 10 days in a row of 10-14 hour days." It almost sounds like we treat that as a badge of honor. It's not. It's self-destructive behavior.
For me, it's the result of past PPRCs (Pastor-Parish Relation Committees for those who are not United Methodist. It's the group I'm amenable to as a pastor.) telling me that I'm not doing enough or constantly badgering me about how I spend my time. So, for me, many days I ran like I did because of past scars from being told I never did enough. Then I crashed...and burned...and it's taken me a year to recover from it.
I could blame my behavior on those past experiences...scars...whatever I want to call them...but the truth is...it's my fault. Only mine. I have chosen to let those things guide my work ethic and I've believed the lie that to be faithful...and successful...and to keep people happy...I had to stay busy. Well, it's a lie from the pit of hell and it smells like smoke. (To quote Chuck Swindoll)
So to my brothers and sisters of the cloth...stop it. Stop trying to be the hero. Stop trying to do it all by yourself. Stop sacrificing your family and your health for your calendar. I've been there. I know what it's like. I've sat in the ashes and watched as everything around me crumbled because I was too stubborn to listen to those who were telling me to take care of myself.
See, here's the thing. Sabbath rest is not a suggestion. It's not some quirky little self-help, new age idea. It's not an excuse to get out of doing this or that. It's a commandment. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, it's one of the Big Ten. The God who created us and called us into a life of service commanded that we take a day to rest and worship. When we don't, everyone suffers.
Your church suffers because you're exhausted.
Your kids suffer because you're not home.
Your marriage suffers because there is no time to maintain the relationship.
Your health suffers.
Everyone around you suffers.
As clergy, I'm guessing that we can control probably 90% of our schedule. There are mandatory meetings. There are church responsibilities. There are deadlines to meet. (As I write this, I'm not writing my newsletter article for this month...but it still has to be done.) I understand that we are busy...we all are...but we are not too busy to take care of ourselves. It starts with saying this..."No..."
Practice that with me. "No....."
Your church leadership will appreciate that you are taking time for self-care...eventually. Your boss will appreciate that you are taking time for self-care. Your spouse and kids will definitely appreciate it. Your God will appreciate it. And in time...so will you.
Honestly, I still suck at this. But at least now I'm aware that I suck at it and try to be more intentional about time with my kids...my wife...and myself. I've started doing yoga in the mornings after my girls all head out. Sometimes it makes me a couple minutes late getting into the office, but I can actually tell a difference between the days I take those couple minutes for myself and the days I don't. I still suck at saying "No," but I'm working on it.
I know this isn't anything new, and you've heard before about the importance of self-care, but I went to bed last night with this on my heart.
Brothers and sisters...it's important that we care for ourselves and our families. This life is tougher than most realize, and the difficulties it brings to our closest relationships are real. My prayer is that as we all learn to take better care of ourselves we can be better disciples and better shepherds.