I missed church yesterday. I wasn't feeling great Saturday (but thought it was probably because I had walked 7.5 miles in the wee hours of the morning as part of our Jericho Walk--a walk around our city block we had been doing all week...we did once around the other 6 days and 7 times around yesterday as we prayed for schools, churches, homes, businesses, and the general welfare of the people and the community) but then I woke up yesterday feeling cruddy. I was pushing through finishing my sermon and continued to feel worse and worse. I went and asked R what he thought (still sleeping, he just shrugged), so I called home. My dad answered and I told him my dilemma and he said I should stay home. I hesitated because I didn't feel like I was dying or anything, I could have made it through service but also knew that if I went there was a possibility I could get others sick or get worse myself. But I decided to follow his advice and stay home. So, I started making calls. Called someone who could easily lead an impromptu service, called my SPRC chair so he would know, called the music folks to give them a heads up, called the appointment I had to cancel, etc.
And I stayed in bed. I cannot tell you the level of guilt involved with missing Sunday service. It's not healthy. I know perfectly well they can go on without me and be just fine. It's not that I think I'm that important that they'd have to cancel church if I weren't there. But it just doesn't seem right missing Sunday worship. I didn't run to Disneyland and I wasn't feigning sick. The needs and concerns were legitimate, but man, it was tough. I prayed for them as I marked time and I also got a good bit of work done as I lay in bed unable to sleep. But even today I feel guilty.
After all was said and done, the impromptu worship leader sent me an email reporting back what had happened and what some of the prayer concerns were etc and in one she told me that a man (whom I love dearly and who has special needs and has been in the hospital out of town with problems for weeks now) still needs prayers and that he feels like I have forgotten him. Boy howdy did that cut right to my heart.
Talk about guilt. It's not that I haven't wanted to make the 20 mile drive out there. It's not that I wasn't on my way one day when his wife called and said it wasn't a good day to go. And despite the fact that this is our "sabbath month" it's not like I haven't done anything. So, as I tried to figure out if I really was busy or if I was just a bad pastor I did a run down on what has been happening all month such that I haven't made it out there:
- Summer camp (which I dean and write curriculum for)
- the biggest funeral in the history of my church (also a close friend of ours)
- lots of pastoral care for the family of the deceased
- a TON of administration--trying to get organized, trying to plan for the next year and a half of ministry
- tons of pastoral care in general
- two folks with MAJOR back surgery
- a husband who is sick and various tests for him (problem still undiagnosed)
- a 3 day mini vacation to maintain my sanity
- mission planning
that's about it, as far as the big stuff goes. It doesn't seem like much in print, but it was time consuming. Good ministry that didn't allow much for me taking 2 hours to run out of town for a visit. I've done it at other times for other people, so it's not that I won't do it, just that life hasn't allowed for that right now.
But as I look at that list, I see how much has gone on during the "easy" sabbath month. It's a lot. There hasn't been much that was easy. And I see how busy life is, how fast life is, how much is going on.
Last Friday I took sabbath. Really took sabbath. I didn't eek in any calls (maybe one or two emails...) and I didn't work with R to help him out. I stayed home. And I just laid on the couch and tried to listen to my soul. I tried to listen for what I really wanted/needed to do that day--that's what I used to do, just wake up on sabbath and feel for what I wanted to do that day. And that laying there, just listening was hard. I had a 100 things pop into my mind that I could do, but all of them were about productivity of one sort or another and so I had to silence them. I needed to not be productive for a day. I needed to not be worried about efficiency or output or any of those work-like things. I needed to rest. So I did. I curled up on the couch and slept until lunch and then spent the rest of the day relaxing and lounging with my husband.
Ministry is a complicated and busy job. Much more than the "easy Sundays" people assume. It is also a job that requires a solid reality check...you can only do so much. You should only do so much. Some times folks won't get a visit. Sometimes you will have to let someone down. Sometimes you won't be enough. Sometimes you will fail. And that's ok. It's all part of the job (the successes and the "failures"). Take time to breathe anyway. You need your rest. You need to stop and slow down enough to hear your soul (and to silence that incessant impulse to always do something).