In the days leading up to Easter, I was eager for Easter to be over. Don’t get me wrong, I love Easter. It’s the day we celebrate the greatest news in all of history. That Jesus Christ is Lord and has risen from the dead! But in the weeks leading up to Easter, I had worked sixteen days straight with only one day off in the mix.
Not only was I exhausted from the two weeks leading up to Easter, but since the beginning of 2017 I’ve been running hard and working lots of long days. It got to the point that in mid-March during a meeting with one of my team members, they looked at me and asked, “So Bryan, when are you going to take some time off for yourself?”
I sheepishly looked down to the floor and smiled one of the those “embarrassment-smiles” and said, “Yeah, I know. I know. I need to make sure I’m taking care of myself.”
Like many pastors, I have a tendency not to take care of myself. Mostly, because I love the work and the people I serve. But sometimes, it’s because I lose sight of the need for self-care and how it’s vital for longevity in ministry.
Fortunately, the week after Easter my family and I were able to pull away for a few days and visit some good friends in another city. After getting back, feeling refreshed from some time away, I had some mental and emotional space to reflect on my exhaustion. During my reflection time, I was drawn to the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2.
I’m always struck by these two chapters of scripture for many reasons. But in this case, two things stuck out in particular. The first is how at the end of a full week of creation, God rests on the seventh day! God, the almighty, all powerful one from whom everything else in the universe flows, even He rests. If it’s important for Him, it’s probably important for me too.
And then, second, on the sixth day of creation, God creates Adam and Eve. When He creates them, He gives them a charge to tend and care for the garden. He gives them jobs and work to do. But their task during their first full day as humans (the seventh day) is NOT to do any of the work God has just assigned them, rather it’s to rest.
At creation, with Adam and Eve, God establishes a rhythm for the first two humans to work from a place of rest.
I’m conditioned to rest from my work. Meaning, I work as hard as I can for as long as I can until I have nothing left and then I crash. But God, from the beginning, teaches us that rest should be a priority, maybe even more of a priority than our work.
For those of you who are reading this who attend our church, I’m not writing this looking for pity or fishing for compliments. But I’m writing it more as a question, “Where, when, and how are you prioritizing rest?” I know that overwork isn’t something reserved only for pastors. There are congregations everywhere full of people who are overworking, driving themselves and their families into the ground.
God takes rest seriously. Rest isn’t only a way to recharge and refresh. It’s also one of the ways we declare our trust in and dependence on God. By stepping away from our work we are making a statement that God has, first and foremost, made us for a relationship with Him rather than our toil.
I’m not saying that I’ve now got this all figured out and will never find myself in the same place again. But now in a new role with more responsibility, I’m beginning to see the need and priority for rest in a new way.
What about you?
Where and when have you seen yourself in a similar place?
What have you learned from those circumstances?
How can you prioritize rest in your schedule?