I wasn’t planning on writing this week. Four days of work have felt like seven. And when I feel that way for too long, I end up apologizing. It’s not the apologizing that bothers me but the embarrassment leading up to the apologizing. Anyway, I wasn’t planning on writing.
I’m a volunteer Chaplain for my township’s fire department. The past two years of serving the team at PMFD has been an honor, to say the least. They don’t get paid to run into burning buildings or have their dinner disrupted because of a false alarm. They don’t get reimbursed when startled at 4 AM for a commercial fire at the local WaWa food and gas mart. I don’t get compensated either. And although I didn’t get out of bed and into fire gear, as several of the crew did, I listened to the call and prayed.
That was the end of my sleep for the night.
As I said, I didn’t plan on writing. I’m heading off to a short camping trip with my “coffee nephew” and my great niece. It’s her first camping trip! She’s 5 and bringing a dress. So, as I lay in bed going through the trip checklist yet again, as my wife’s alarm buzzed at 5:30, I was reminded of a verse of Scripture where Jesus’ words are recorded.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
I laid there for a few moments wishing the cool Fall breeze and snugly sheets would woo me back to sleep, but several thoughts kept crossing my mind in light of this passage. I’ve written more than a few pieces on Sabbath, rest, and healthy life rhythm. I’ve done a decent job of reorienting my living and schedule towards a more holistic and sacred pace. The past few weeks skewed those a bit and I’ve felt it, for sure. So, as I look forward to swinging in a hammock with my niece, I was reminded, yet again, of the need for intentional, regular, physical rest.
As a believer in Jesus, I’m called to care for all of me, not just my faith; you don’t have to be religious to reap the benefits of Sabbath and life rhythm. The new catch words in my circle are “soul care”, s-o-u-l care. But I’ve found that in my particular flavor of Christianity, compartmentalization has overtaken what should be a healthy life rhythm. Ministry pushes out rest due to urgency and whatever else drives us in unhealthy ways. We’ve become performance driven rather than transformed. We’ve taken on the pattern of this world. Busy, busy, busy.
To expect our bodies and minds to recuperate with little sleep, caffeine induced productivity and constantly working 7 days a week is expecting, even demanding, that God perform a miracle, weekly. It’s irresponsible.
Too many people use and abuse their bodies in this pervasive rush. And when fatigue or something worse manifests, I’ve heard people abuse Scripture, like Matthew 11, saying that God will restore them. In Matthew 11 the point is soul care, s-o-u-l care, not physical rest. It’s addressing the spiritual fatigue of a culture that was run over by legalistic righteousness and rule keeping. Jesus, in his declaration, was offering a better, even best way, to truly live. Yes, physical rest and soul rest should interlock, you can’t separate the two. However, to expect our bodies and minds to recuperate with little sleep, caffeine induced productivity and constantly working 7 days a week is expecting, even demanding, that God perform a miracle, weekly. It’s irresponsible. The lack of stewardship of our bodies, minds and spirits by running a pace we weren’t designed to run is a flagrant disregard of our limits as humans.
So, as I pack up the truck with tents, marshmallows and lanterns, I’m looking forward to kicking up my feet for a little “sole care”, that’s s-o-l-e care - care for my body from head to foot - and a little s-o-u-l care for the inside, too. It’s intentional and necessary…for everyone. Something you should think about. Maybe this weekend you could take a little time to consider how you can do a better job of caring for yourself, holistically, instead of leaving that job completely up to God - or the medical professionals.
If you want some ideas, please check out my other blogs on Sabbath, rest and rhythm.