Rest. It means different things to different people. For many people it means stopping, moving away from what they normally do, getting away from the routine and presumably the stress of what was their usual life experience. I think this explains what to me seems utterly contradictory; going on vacation to a camping site, where the preparation, the roll out of the “gear” on site, the things one has to do that are not usual (sleep on the ground, live in the midst of black flies, live in a tent during the rain, etc…) appear at first glance to be much more work than one’s usual day job. I know that my loathing of all things related to camping skews my understanding of this comparison but surely even the most hardcore camper must understand the odd contradiction of going away to rest while at the same time adding lots and lots of tasks and challenges to one’s schedule.
I have gone on vacation to other parts of the Maritimes and Newfoundland and preached in pulpits. The exchange was attractive to me, I go to a beautiful vacation destination, stay in a Minister’s Manse for free (while others around me are paying HUGE rental costs, and all I had to do was preach a sermon). I loved the deal, it seemed so perfect, after the service was over I would meet locals who would recommend places and experiences only they would know about, and they would answer my questions about walking trails, coffee shops and diners. To others that does not seem like a vacation, after all I am performing tasks that are the same as my usual work, but for me it allows me to do what I love most, preach, and get away from what can be stressful about my work, meetings, grumpy/cranky parishioners who are upset we didn’t sing a certain hymn on a certain day, and refereeing conflicts between church leaders and staff. It is the best part of my chosen vocation without all the stressful parts I leave behind. Bliss!
Rest or Sabbath Time for me is leaving the things that upset, stress and worry me behind and instead being in a new place, with new people, doing what I love most, preach. I sometimes think I should have been one of those Methodist preachers in days gone by who would ride on horseback from place to place spreading the Word. Except that I really do treasure getting to know the people in the church, forming bonds and relationship that allow us as church to live out our collective call to serve. For me it is less about the relationships themselves and more about how those relationships form an organic whole that effectively enables us to be the church, to others, to ourselves.
I think that is why it is not work or stress for me to visit people, to preach or to plan weekly, monthly, or yearly, to get us as a church from A to B. While NOT a process person I am a big picture person and love the challenge of putting together a series of events that help shape us in the direction God appears to be taking us. But I do find it stressful when in the midst of this there are slights, hurts, squabbles, etc…more often arising from a lack of self-esteem than any structural challenge. Ironically when the stakes are high; death, loss, illness, etc… I don’t find my pastoral care stressful, but when the issues are small (what colour will we paint the walls, who was thanked at such and such an event, something left out of the bulletin) it drives me nuts! I know you may be thinking, “Who gets to determine what is small and what is big?” but seriously I feel any reasonable person, with distance from the event, would concur that there is a world of difference between being upset that you just received a cancer diagnosis and that you want to dedicate bulletins in memory of your grandparents and the Sunday you want is always taken. THAT is the kind of thing I need to take a break from.
All of us need rest. We often find it in different places by different means. For me rest is not rest from work but rather rest from what appears to my sensibilities to be overreactions to very small events. Getting away from THAT is what gives me a breather and makes me better able to cope with it when I return to the world of “hurts” that are less about the big questions of life and more about jealousies, rivalries and insecurities.
We all need rest from something. Thanks be to God for making us all different!