Seeking Sabbath: The Struggle for the Necessary (Guest Post by Rev. J. Brad Mitchell)
Time escapes me…When will I ever catch up…I cannot afford a day off…Is sabbath really that important anyway? These are thoughts which flood my mind as I sit down with my calendar to plan my sabbath rest. Yes, I have to be intentional about sabbath. The demands of business, ministry, and life easily consume me, and sabbath is squeezed out. I do not mean to let it pass by; it just seems to disappear in the ever-consuming demands of the day. So, I plan the sabbath rest. The problem is that as I sit to plan, I am faced with doubts that this is even possible. How will I ever find time in my already overloaded schedule for one more thing?
As a minister, I know the importance. I know the commandment. I talk about it, and I preach about it. Living it proves much more challenging. My body and spirit scream for the rest, and I do my best to silence them. I hear that God did not give us rest just because he wanted to challenge us. He did it because it was vital for our lives.
When God creates, it is beautiful. When God created the sabbath, it, too, was beautiful. The key is that it still is beautiful and sacred. We miss the beauty and sacredness in our seven-day work weeks. We think that a vacation is the answer. The reasoning is that if we can only escape for a few days, all will be okay. Yet, on vacation, it takes most of the time just to learn to slow down, and then, it is time to come home and begin again – faced with the same demands as before. It is just not meant to be this way. We need rest and were created for rest.
I’m a minister that works a second full-time job. I am a husband and a father. I love what I do. It is my joy. I can understand the challenge of finding time to rest. It seems selfish. How can I take time for myself when people need me? I am reminded of the phrase, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” I know when I have not been faithful to the sabbath. I become overwhelmed, stressed, short-tempered, anxious, and depressed. My body and spirit remind me that I have forsaken that which is a gift…rest.
With all of this, I sit down again. I sit down before my calendar and I plan my sabbath rest. This time is different though. This time, I sit down with my wife. I ask her to help hold me accountable to this precious gift. She can help me remember the sacredness. She can help me maintain boundaries around sabbath so that activities and well-meaning people do not steal this time. It is reserved. It is set. I will rest and it will be good, as it was created to be. I will be a better servant after I observe the sabbath. I am feeling better already.
Rev J. Brad Mitchell is an ordained Baptist minister currently serving as Pastor at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Goldsboro, NC. Brad earned the Master of Divinity Degree from Campbell University Divinity School and is currently pursuing the Doctor of Ministry Degree from The McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. His is a certified grief counselor and contributing writer to a monthly grief newsletter, The Journey, at Rouse Funeral Home. As a bi-vocational minister, Brad is the Operations Manager at a construction lending company in Kinston, NC. He enjoys running, participating in triathlons, and teaching indoor cycling at the local YMCA. Brad resides in LaGrange, NC with his wife, Wendy and daughters, Maia and Kelli.
Guest Series: What do you do, #ForSabbathsSake?
In A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” Marianne Williamson writes that “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” I asked prominent authors, theologians, bloggers, and ministers to “let their own light shine,” by writing on the joys and challenges of sabbath practices. During this summer guest blog series, these writers will help us learn from one another, and, in turn, give us permission to explore our own sabbath journeys.
I want to hear from you, too!
Take a photo of yourself—or a selfie—while engaging in a sabbath practice (rest, worship, or a community gathering). Share the photo on social media and include #ForSabbathsSake in your post. Give yourself and others permission to enjoy the gift of sabbath.