God created. God rested. It wasn’t because God was tired, it was because he is holy. He set into motion a rhythm by which we, who are created in his image, can also strive to be holy, to be our best, to be fully who God created us to be.
Matthew Sleeth, in his wonderful little book, 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life, says “the word Sabbath means 'cease from working.' The concept is holy. The ancient Hebrews did not have names for the days of the week; they had numbers: one day, two day, three day, four day, five day, six day, and stop day. The name is not what is important; it’s what happens on that day that matters. Resting one day a week by any name is holy – the point is to stop on that day and look for God.”
Sabbath – sure.
Sunday – sure.
Stop day?? Much harder. Especially for those in ministry – pastors, musicians, worship leaders and teachers. For them, Sunday, the day when most Christians rest, is a work day. Often the week builds up to the important work that is done on Sunday – leading worship services, teaching classes, leading youth groups, etc. A huge amount of energy is expended. So when do those people rest? It’s hard for full time staff to get a day off, and even harder for the many part time church staff or volunteers who get up and go to their paying job on Monday morning.
Sleeth makes the point that if we are going to give God our best, and minister out of our best selves, it is essential that we take a stop day. As a physician and a Christian he reminds us that it is impossible for us to go full steam ahead seven days a week. If God did not do it, why do we think we can?
But it is hard. I know. I have been there. As former part time music director and worship planner in my church, I also had two other part time jobs as well as being a mother to my five children and wife to my husband. I loved my time in church – as a musician and a worshiper it fed my soul and was a calling I enjoyed living out. But I burned out. There is no way I could run that hard and not get tired. Neither can you. I’m concerned for those who work in the church. It’s a high calling, it is kingdom work. But if you don’t get a Sabbath – a true rest day – even church work will drain your soul.
What can we do? I certainly don’t have the answers – I’d like to hear yours. One thing that might help is better pay for our part time staff more so that they don’t need two or three jobs to pay the bills. Paid sabbaticals for pastors and ministry leaders - yes. Healthy boundaries between work (even in church) and home - yes.
Matthew Sleeth closes this book by saying that “In adopting a 24/6 life, we put God back into the equation. We leave some of the figuring out to him. We recharge our batteries with the energy that comes only through stopping, and we become more generous with the gifts God has given to us. “
How are you protecting your soul? Do you take a stop day?