Years ago, when I was growing up, I remember the Calgon commercials on TV. The tag line was “Take me away” and it had a luxurious setting of a woman getting ready to relax in a bathtub filled with the aroma of Calgon bath products. That commercial dates me, but that’s okay. I was only a kid! If that doesn’t sound familiar, how about this classic slogan: “You deserve a break”? McDonalds and other retailers all promise moments of escape from the demands of life regardless of whether it is found in a Big Mac or an island paradise experience. What is common – and realistic – to all is the desire to experience the sense of escape and freedom when the burdens of life are lifted off of our shoulders. Creating moments of relaxation in our lives is usually not as simple as running through the drive-through or relaxing in a hot tub.
Taking a day off – truly a day off – in ministry is hard. To take a day off at your house often just provides easy access to well-meaning individuals to stop by and chat if they see you in your yard, flower bed or garage. While it is a good thing when people find the freedom to stop by while you’re ‘doing life,’ it puts the brakes on the mental shut-down from the responsibilities and demands of ministry. Accessibility is a great attribute in living out your Christian faith in your community. However, the problem with constant accessibility is that it becomes nearly impossible to experience the refreshment the soul and body needs.
The 6-1 principle found in Genesis of work and rest is easy to comprehend, but hard to follow. How does that principle really work for a family who has a pastor in the house? Good intentions and planning often get displaced by emergency situations. People get sick, people die and some people are only available to connect on your ‘hopeful’ day off. Adjustments are made. Life goes on. Another week passes with maybe a few hours of escape, but not a true day of rest.
So, how do you help your husband (and yourself) take a day off from ministry pressures? With prayer. With purpose. With planning. With perseverance. And with more prayer! Wisdom is needed, along with grace, to serve above and beyond what is in your job description or what might be expected by your church leadership team. Priorities are a matter of conscience and discipline. Inevitably someone will not be happy. Either your children, you, your husband or whoever is asking for your immediate attention. Taking a day off can seem like a no win situation.
Sundays are not a day of rest – at least not in our home. We do enjoy worship, but we are also expending a lot of energy ‘working’ on Sundays while at church and often throughout the day. We do enjoy family time and maybe even a nap. However, on most Sundays, it is a minimum 8-12 hour work day, especially if there are individuals in the hospital or meetings that take place in the evening. Sundays are not our family’s day of rest. That is just not our reality.
So, what is the key to this tough balance of work and rest? Christ. His model of servanthood is the key to our sanity as we walk through the challenges of schedules and the demands of ministry. Jesus did take time to go off by himself to pray. He left the crowds. We even have record of His private prayers. We also, however, have record of His quiet moments being disrupted by the needs – often panic – of others. His self-sacrifice is important to take note of. His continual example of the priority of worship, prayer and quietness is also crucial to our personal well-being and that of our husbands.
After 30+ years of ministry life, we continue to strive to find creative ways to apply the 6-1 principle in our home. We still have not figured out a simple solution. However, we consistently strive to take time out of our lives to physically and emotionally rest. We also, try to ‘escape’ the routine demands of ministry by leaving home for the day, an overnight or an evening to a neighboring city. The finances to make that happen have ebbed and flowed through the years, but God has always provided a way for us to be refreshed one way or the other. When we can find a sense of ‘anonymity’ we find rest – even when in a crowd.
In fact, one of the best places I find escape, as a mother and a wife, as a pastor’s wife and a church employee, as a teacher and a friend, is on an airplane. A sense of freedom washes over me when the plane door shuts. It is a strange situation, because I might even be working on projects on the plane. The freedom is similar to many young moms who find the courage to lock the bathroom door. To experience a few precious moments when no one is demanding anything of you – or can’t touch you – can bring a renewed sense of courage and perseverance to face the demands that lay before you.
Perhaps your home is still a refuge, but what about your phone? Can you ‘disconnect’ for a day? No email, no voicemail, no texts, no demands. Is that even possible? How can you disconnect from work, but not be left disconnected from your kids, your parents or others in your world? For us, a ‘private line’ or a disposable phone has worked as an option. When my husband takes off for a week of hunting – an actual vacation – this extra line allows us to stay connected, but keeps work from intruding on the silence. A second email address also helps to keep ministry at the workplace, but allows us to stay connected to our increasingly techie world. With just a little bit of creativity and a little determination to create healthy boundaries, escape is possible.
No matter where you find your sense of peace and rest or how you may be refreshed spiritually, we all need a day of rest and worship. My challenge to you today is to prayerfully consider when the last time you truly enjoyed a day of rest, allowing the demands of life to be put on hold, guilt-free! If you can’t recall that moment of worship and refreshment, it has been too long. Every household and every ministry has different dynamics that need to be considered, but the 6-1 principle is there for us to follow so that we can serve faithfully for years to come. May you be refreshed in God’s presence this week!
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3a