When most pastors leave congregations and don’t have another official job to go to, it is for one reason: burnout. They’ve worked too hard. They’ve shepherded congregations through major change which has taken a toll on their own health. They’ve made the church a greater priority over their family or own emotional wellbeing and simply need to re-prioritize. Or, they’re simply bone tired for a thousand different reasons. And they can’t imagine setting foot back in a church building for a really long time (for the sake of the church’s wellbeing many of these folks don’t need to). In fact this article has been all the buzz with my clergy friends over the past several days as one high profile pastor has left his post for not taking care of himself or his family over the long haul.
But, as I stand (or sit on the couch in all accuracy) on this my first week officially off duty– when I’d normally be getting the swing of the Epiphany season at church and now am not there, I need to say that I’m in this place of life not because of burnout. Sure, I needed some rest from the craziness of balancing this huge tradition for our family with Kevin’s new job and living a part for some time, but burnout, no.
I really liked being a pastor. I really liked my job. I left on great terms with the congregation. And, as much as I know my leaving WPBC at this time was the right thing to do, I still miss it. (I really didn’t know what to do with myself yesterday when there wasn’t early church responsibilities to get up for. All I knew to do was try to enjoy the break by eating waffles and watching my favorite political news shows, thanking God for the chance to be in my pajamas at 11 am– something I never, ever get to do). Then, as I was listening to the radio on the way to the gym this afternoon, I heard a song and my first thought was, “That would be a great piece for a call to worship.” (And I teared up a little thinking that I no longer had anyone to suggest that we sing it to).
So, what do you do when you are not in a church by choice– or any 9 to 5 job for that matter– for a chunk of time when you aren’t experiencing a burnout?
Though I’m sure many would say things like, “volunteer!” “get busy making connections for your next job in your new town” or even “hurry up and get back in the saddle because you don’t want to lose your relevance,” I just can’t make myself do any of these things.
I don’t want to rush into filling my days with thousands of lunch appointments or extracurricular activities– even if I could.
I don’t want to rush into commitments for work to come.
I don’t want to have to be asked to have a spiritual word for anyone other than myself for a while– even as much as this I’d really rather not go down this silent path.
I need to work on my book long project– but I’m not even pushing myself back into this yet. “Breathe, Elizabeth, breathe” is what wise ones have been saying to me.
We all need Sabbath. And apparently it is my time.
I’ve always been a much better do-er than I have a wait-er or rest-er. As a child, I hated dates off from school like federal holidays because they really seemed to throw me off of my routine. I begged to go to school even as my parents thought I was crazy. I really wanted something to do. I couldn’t stand to be idle.
And on this day, I need to tell you that I really want something to do. Please don’t roll your eyes at me when I say, it’s so hard to rest! In fact, as more as I’ve gotten into it, I’ve realized that I’d rather not have Sabbath. I’d rather hide behind work. I’d rather avoid myself. I’d rather avoid God. But, I trust that Sabbath will be good for my soul and the future souls of those in whom I care for, so I will try.
I will try to see what Sabbath teaches me about my value and worth– and from where it comes.
I will try to see what Sabbath teaches me about the gift of time– what it is I really need to do and what I don’t.
I will try to see what Sabbath teaches me about calling– what is the best use of my gifts and what is not.
Most of all, I will try to listen. I will fight the fear that my voice will be weakened if I don’t use it for awhile. I will try to remember this is only for a season. I hope you can too– in the Sabbath moments of your life schedule that find you this week.
So, if you don’t see me blogging as much as I normally do, you know where I am: breathing in Sabbath. Remembering that my value is not based on what I produce. I promise, I’ll share with you whatever I learn when I return in a couple of weeks or whenever . . .