September - October 2018

Written by Robbie Cansler
From her column Kingdom Come

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“Sabbath” is something I struggle with. It’s actually written about in the Bible over 100 times, and God thought it was so important He chose to observe it, and even mentioned it in the 10 Commandments. And yet, I find it difficult to rest.

I am a full-time pastor, mother and wife, and do bivocational work as a writer and editor. This means long days without a lot of time to catch my breath. Sundays are workdays as I pastor my congregation. Because of this, I find myself using rare time off to clean, pull weeds, or work on other projects around the house. Even the days I set aside for rest become filled with activity.

Our culture is obsessed with productivity to the point that we treat others and ourselves as commodities instead of humans. This is probably why God called for something different for His covenant people. An intentional day of rest helps us to reevaluate what is important and to re-identify ourselves as the beloved of God—rather than as machines created to perform tasks.

This is difficult, however, to incorporate into one’s life as a pastor. Despite knowing the importance of Sabbath and understanding the commandment, ministers often put personal rest on the back-burner. We usher the covenant community of God into worship each Sunday, calling them to a day of worship and rest, yet, as pastors, we rarely set aside a time for ourselves.

I recently walked my congregation through a four-week sermon series on Sabbath, and I was convicted. During this time, I realized how rarely I take a full 24-hour day off. I thought of how Sunday mornings are often frantic, and of how little time I take to just enjoy the things I love—like music, long walks, baking, laughing with my husband, and going on unexpected adventures. My days had become so focused on productivity and the things that needed to be done, I had forgotten to enjoy life in the ways God meant for it to be enjoyed.

My days had become so focused on productivity and the things that needed to be done, I had forgotten to enjoy life in the ways God meant for it to be enjoyed.

This is a problem, I’ve discovered, that is not just mine. Others around me also talk about the struggle they have in taking time to rest. And when the opportunity to do so occurs, they can’t.

The journey through understanding the need for personal Sabbath has helped me to live with more intention. As a mother of a young child, it’s not always realistic to take a 24-hour period, but I have learned that even in this season of life, I can create restful rhythms throughout the week. These times help me to focus on who I am in Christ, to enjoy the beauty of the gifts God has given me, and to learn to trust that God is better than I am at ensuring the world won’t fall apart, so I don’t need to worry.

I’ve begun taking time when I put my son to bed to breathe in my gratefulness for him and for the gift of another day. I don’t rush through the motions, but observe the time together as sacred, filled with joy and rest.

Sunday mornings, which are notoriously stressful around here, now include early morning walks to the coffee shop. This observance sets a better tone for the day. Instead of just focusing on the work that needs to be done, I’m rediscovering the joy of being with the people of God.

Also, I have begun to incorporate the word “no” into my vocabulary more often, and am willing to tell the church that I’m unable to do certain things. As a result, I now derive joy from watching congregants find their gifts and talents as they step in to do tasks I thought I had to shoulder. Oddly enough,the church does not fall apart when I share responsibilities. Rather, people discover who they are and what they are capable of doing. We are all better for it.

These are just a few of the ways I am learning to incorporate Sabbath into my life. All isn’t perfect, as I still find myself checking email when I should be focusing on my family, or folding laundry when I should be reading a book, but I am learning the importance of rest. I am learning the importance of taking time to say “thank you” for all the blessings around me, and for the ways I get to serve my church and community. I am learning to celebrate the beauty of family and the wonder of creation by taking time to really see and be present with both. I am learning the joy of simple moments doing things I love with people I love. I am rediscovering the importance of Sabbath.

So, in the midst of the chaos of pastoral life, of family life, of being a human, remember the Sabbath. Take time to rest, rejoice, and celebrate—to trust that God is capable, to breathe in the beauty of the earth, and to celebrate the joy of simple blessings. You will be a better person and pastor for it.

Rev. Robbie Cansler is an urban church planter/substitute public school teacher who serves the Mission Church of the Nazarene in Hammond, Indiana.