One of the warnings I frequently heard throughout my seminary education was not to over burden myself. “Self care” was a popular buzz word in the ministry circles, and we were constantly being urged to find the time to step apart from the world in order to center ourselves spiritually.
And yet, after I stepped into full-time ministry I fell into the bad habit of rushing head first until I collapsed. I probably collapsed a little sooner than some of my colleagues would have because I am an introvert and need quiet alone time to refuel my energy levels. I had been going full-steam for quite a while. Between finishing seminary, working toward being commissioned as a provisional elder in The United Methodist Church, ending my ministry in Colorado on the last Sunday of June and starting my new ministry in West Virginia on the first Sunday of July, making a hasty cross-country move, and trying to enter into the life of a new community… I was on the verge of burnout at the very beginning.
It was at this point that I decided I needed to take a vacation. Still not quite ready to give myself permission to “turn off” for a period of time, I planned a “vacation” that would begin with a working trip to New York City. Although the working portion of my trip was to participate in leadership training by the Poverty Initiative, a cause I feel passionately about, it was exhausting. Sharing a room with a stranger did not allow me the down time I needed to unwind, and my I never took the time to just center myself.
It wasn’t until I jumped in the car after the leadership school ended and started a cross-country drive back to Colorado to visit old friends that I began to really decompress. I stretched the trip into a three-day drive, enjoying long evenings sitting alone in a hotel room with the television turned off, laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Like I said, I’m introvert… I need those moments of down time. But by the time I had allowed myself to take that time, I was starving for it.
By the time my vacation was over and I was driving back to West Virginia to return to my ministry, I was more energized, but I was also a little more aware of just how tired I had allowed myself to become… and how little time I had allowed myself for Sabbath.
Sabbath is a time of rest and worship–and we all need it. How we might best make use of a Sabbath day depends on our personalities and our personal needs, but we all need to be willing to stop what we are doing, take a moment apart from the world, and simply be with God. For me, I need an extended period of quiet. Spending time in worship with my fellow Christians is an important aspect because it is in the fellowship of the Body of Christ that we find support, strength, and build one another up as stronger disciples. But I also need to step aside for a bit, close a door, and just sit and listen to the sound of silence, because in those moments of quiet and solitude God speaks to my soul.
I know that I have decided to spend the fifty days of Easter by living “out loud”, but a part of being an out loud Christian is being willing to sit back and listen to what God is saying to us. Jesus did just that–he stepped away from the chaos of the world and immersed himself in spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting. Those times of centering allowed him to return to the world and live out loud for God.
So, today, as a part of my commitment to drop my anonymity and become a more deliberate disciple, I am taking a bit of time away from the world so that I am ready to live int he image of the Risen Christ!