Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Six Days You Shall Labor...

As posted on the Christ the King, Wilbraham website:

Whenever seeking to discern God's call, identifying y0ur weaknesses in a given vocation is equally important as identifying and developing your strengths.  I intend my time of vocational discernment at Christ the King to be no different of course, and while it's been really helpful to identify some of my gifts for ministry over the past month, this past week was really a lot more about discovering (or in some ways reaffirming) one of those areas that I need to work on.  Namely, I'm absolutely horrible at allowing myself to take a break.  Furthermore, during those few opportunities I do have for relaxation, I'm equally bad at allowing myself to put aside the concerns and stresses of work.

While my time at Christ the King is not particularly stressful, my other job recruiting enumerators for the US Census can often be, and both roles combine to make it so that I really do not have a Sabbath (or in non-Biblical terms a real day off) most weeks.  On top of my busy schedule I'm still in the middle of the ELCA Candidacy process, finishing up some seminary applications and leading my own church's youth group.  Last week things came to head as I was finalizing plans for a youth group retreat weekend.  A couple of the kids had dropped out at the last minute, and while the retreat still went amazingly, I got stressed out to the point where I had what was probably a migraine for the first time in my life.  I ended up having to call out of work this past Thursday due to the migraine, and I got sick earlier this week as well.

After a whole lot of reflection (and a bit of rest), it occurred to me how silly it was that it took me getting sick to allow myself a day off.  I also took some time to reflect on the fourth commandment:
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work- you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day, therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it (Ex. 20: 8 - 11).
When God spoke the Ten Commandments to Moses, he put taking a day off ahead of not stealing, not committing adultery, and even not murdering others... seems like God certainly thinks taking a day off is pretty important.  The question then becomes why does God hold the Sabbath so highly; why do we need a day off?  Especially after my experience this past week, my reverent guess would be that without taking a day off to be with friends, family and God, it's nearly impossible to follow the first commandment.  Without taking that time to enjoy and fully be present in His creation, it's easy to begin putting other things before God... whether it's working to attain financial security for your family or working to ensure your church's youth group will have an amazing weekend, having a Sabbath helps us remember to allow God to work through us, instead of trying to achieve things on our own.

While I still have more than enough learning to do in terms of allowing myself to take a break, I am happy to say that after a great conversation with my supervisor yesterday, I'll no longer be doing Census work on Saturdays, thus having a full day without professional commitments.  Especially during the season of Lent when we're exploring how we can sometimes feel distant from God, I encourage everyone to really think about whether or not they've created a true day of rest for themselves, and how that rest can bring us closer to God.

God's peace,

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