A younger and naiver version of myself thought that owning a home would be the greatest thing ever. As a person who loves and gets wrapped up in projects, the idea of home ownership was appealing. I could constantly be fixing, remodeling or adding features that fit my specific needs. I could personalize my house to the exact specifications I wanted/needed.
Funny thing is that home ownership is a lot more of repairing and fixing than it is creating the perfect space.
This week we had a break in the weather and hit temperatures in the 60s. With the warm weather all of the snow melted in our yard and revealed our autumns failure; the leaves. The weather is Ohio is rather odd and this past fall we had unseasonably warm temperatures that lasted until December and thus most of the leaves on our trees didn’t fall. Then all of a sudden, the temperature dropped and boom all the leaves fell.
All of my neighbors apparently realize the immediate need to clean up their leaves because as the snow started falling the following week, our house was the only one with leaves left. Well once the snow came it stayed for a while and thus I never had to think about the leaves again, until of course it melted. So there I stood in the 60 degree weather staring at a street full of clean yards and one yard of nasty wet leaves. My wife and I spent our entire Saturday blowing and raking all of the wet leaves, it was awful.
The worst part of the situation wasn’t the work that it took to clean up our yard but rather the lost day it took. I work two jobs and my wife works a ton of extra overtime (thanks student loans), so our schedules are relatively full. The number of outstanding projects we have at any given time is massive. Our gutters are basically useless, our basement floods because of this gutter issue, our paint is peeling in our house, the landscaping needs attention and a million other projects. So, when we spent the day cleaning up leaves, we found ourselves back a whole other day.
My response to this was to work as hard as I could to make up that other day. Within 12 hours I was exhausted and the list I sought to accomplish was barely any shorter. I felt like a failure.
Every week I create a planner-like page in my journal. It outlines all of my week goals, month goals, sermon ideas, to do list and a bunch of other information to help keep my sane. In all of my planning for the week ahead I never include a check box for resting. I think this is partly because I don’t feel like resting helps me accomplish anything and thus should be avoided at all costs.
The reality of the situation is quite the opposite, rest is the only thing keeping my goals in reach.
Anyone who has ever crammed for a test realizes this fundamental truth. Without rest our bodies cannot function the way they are made to. That’s a key statement, we were made to rest.
Jesus when rebuking the Pharisees told them that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
We as creation are made with an intrinsic need for resting. That rest is integral to our ability to continue in the marathon of life.
Somewhere along the way however we got it all mixed up. People started seeing rest as akin to laziness, self-care as a cop out and over working as righteousness. Men and Women serving in ministry know this feeling all to well.
I was in a meeting with an individual who is in a position of power within our denomination, and oversees a large group of pastors. This individual during the meeting started talking about how current pastors don’t have the same work ethic they used to. He praised older generations of pastors for working 70-90-hour work weeks and stated he hasn’t worked less than 70 hours since accepting his current position.
I personally think there are a number of reasons why people work like this. First, I think people need to feel some level of control and by working an insane number of hours it helps them to feel like they are in control. Two they want to in some way earn their keep. Grace is a free gift and that is a very difficult thing for people to come to terms with. You cannot earn any part of your salvation, none of it. Finally, I think people work this hard because they on some level want others to admire them.
All of these reasons are broken to say the least. We know from years of research that people who over work themselves have a slew of issues such as, reduced productivity, higher rates of depression, higher rates of Coronary Artery Disease, decreased sleep and overall a poorer quality of life. In the church we also see that pastors who overwork tend to have higher rates of moral failure, burnout and usually their kids want nothing to do with the Gospel.
The mentality of needing rest as weak is whack.
I have always wanted to use the word whack.
Seriously though, it is such a flawed concept to think that we will never need to rest. God himself after creating the world in 6 days spent the 7th resting. I don’t think he did this because he was tired and couldn’t do anything else but rather to show his creation what to do. He knew definitively that rest is required for his creation and thus demonstrated it for us.
This Lent season instead of giving something up, how about we all start a new practice of self-care and rest.
Furthermore, let’s stop seeing people who take care of themselves as weak and start recognizing the truth; we all need a break sometimes.