Two long-time, dear friends had a little tete-a-tete in the comments section on Facebook this week. One is a seasoned pastor who is taking a sabbatical this spring, funded by an endowment fund that funds that kind of thing. The other is an equally hard-working professional who serves folks with disabilities. The conversation went something like this (since it's on Facebook, I feel OK sharing....)
"I wish I got to have a sabbatical."
"I wish I got to have weekends."
And then much apologizing for unintentional begrudging and snark. I'm pretty sure they still hold each other in high esteem.
But here's the thing. Whether you're in a profession that has you working nights and weekends and unpredictably long, intense hours from time to time or even on a regular basis--or you're in a "9-5" type job in an agency that serves underprivileged or marginalized folks--or you're in a high-pressure administrative position in health care--or you're bored to tears because you're underemployed--or you're 'not working' and staying home full-time wiht your kids--or you're doing the job of your dreams......we all need a break.
To invoke something that often gets invoked in jest---even God rested on the seventh day.
But really, if we never take a break (and by break, I don't mean a day off to do errands and chores and catch up on all the stuff you didn't do the other days you didn't have "off"), who do we think we are? Do we really think the world will stop if we take a day (or week or few months or longer) and step out of the chaos and step into rest? Who does it serve if you get totally burned out? Certainly not your loved ones. Certainly not your co-workers. Certainly not your kids. It's a bit arrogant, really, of any of us to think we're that important that we can't take time to rest.
Rest is important. Sleep deprivation has been shown to have similar effects on driving and productivity as substance abuse. Aside from that, taking time to unplug from our own personal rat races allows our brains to rest, even if we're not sleeping. And don't even get me started on how important play is. Laughter and rest at the same time--enjoying oneself in a totally non-productive way--can be one of the most healing things we can do for ourselves on a regular basis.
In our society, though, we don't have cultural customs like siestas after lunch. In fact, my friend had to find a funding source for her sabbatical. And to do so, she had to justify what she was going to do with her time. So, even in her time of holy rest, there needs to be some productivity, and likely a product to show she used her time well.
It's up to each us to take time to rest. Everyone has 24 hours in every day. None of us get any more or any less time in a day. We must be the ones who take charge of carving out time for ourselvses. I say this, having had many ups and downs on this journey. Being someone who works many weekends, and many evenings, I struggle with taking time off in the middle of a work week to play, rest, or just do nothing for awhile. Dishes and laundry pile up. Errands don't get done. But when I take the time, I am much more pleasant to be around. I am more grounded. I am more productive when I head back into the work vortex (which I LOVE, by the way). And, I have reserves for those times when resting isn't an option for awhile. We all have those times, too.
For some people, rest looks like a sabbatical once every several years. For some, it's a sacred vacation they take each year. For some, it's sleeping in on Saturday mornings. Having a night out with friends, a yoga class you try not to miss, reading a book under a fuzzy blanket with a cup of tea, taking time to do the crossword puzzle, a leisurely hike, a snuggle with the kids, building forts with them instead of doing laundry, taking a nap. The other thing is that you get to decide what is "rest" for you. You get to decide what is "fun," "rejuvenating," "sabbath." It won't be the same for everyone. You have to claim it.
If you're wondering where to start, I suggest sleep. Justin Roberts, who has tons of kids' music and a couple of cd's to help kids learn about Bible stories, has this great song about creation. He talks about what happened on the first day, the second day, etc. in a catchy little tune with the repeated phrase "On the (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc) day, God said 'Why not a (spark, light, dark, etc)?'" Then the chorus. But on the last verse, the song ends with "On the 7th day, God said 'Why not a nap?'"
Why not, indeed?