“Father, it’s been quite some time since my last confession. And I have sinned. You see, I took a week off last week. It’s called a Sabbath, which I think is Greek or Latvian for ‘invest in some time away only to feel guilty the entire time for doing so.’ Anyway, I feel horrible and I’m pretty sure I won’t do it again. Please forgive me.”
Replace the word ‘Father’ with various community members’ names and there you have my week: attempting to explain to person after person why they haven’t seen me for a bit around our church community.
Where was I? In short, I took a bit of a Sabbath. I wrote, read, prayed, reflected, studied and watched a lot of Olympics in between. I drank coffee and water and beer to varying degrees. I might have even smoked, depending on who reads this. And I absolutely felt reconnected to my purpose and passion for doing what I do.
So why do I feel so freakin’ guilty? Why do I feel as if people look down condescendingly upon my little getaway? “Pastors only work on Sundays, so I don’t see why you need time off.” Nobody has EVER said that. And, in fact, upon hearing that I’ve taken a Sabbath, their response is usually, “That’s great. I’m so glad you get a chance to do that. That’s so needed in your position.”
But instead, I feel like Sloth (not from Goonies, but from Seven) when I try to retreat for a bit. If someone catches me only reading in the middle of the day, rather than meeting with someone or typing vigorously on my laptop, then it’s almost like my lazy hand is in the cookie jar. When my wife comes home and says, ‘How was your day?’, somehow I magically hear it as ‘WHAT did you do today?’ and can get defensive if I don’t hold an impressive list to read off:
Hear Ye! Hear Ye! I finished 14 tasks, wrote 100 emails, preached four sermons and brushed my teeth – all in the course of one day!
Ridiculous I know, but I’m in that sort of mood. And overall, I guess I’m tired of feeling guilty. Especially when I read a line like this:
“I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.”-Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
Surely I can’t be the only one that struggles with this. Surely I’m not the only one who, at the end of a not-much-done day, decides to drink some coffee and churn out a bunch of writing post-10pm only for the sake of feeling productive. I don’t want to find my worth in this but I have a hard time getting out of the human hamster wheel (see Dare, Double).
Any practical advice out there? Any non-practical quotes out there? Any other fellow sufferers for the works part of our gospel? Misery loves company, so I’d love a head count…
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.