I got back from vacation on Tuesday evening.  As much as I love being a pastor, I also love the fact that I have a few weeks every year when I can just get away.  Rest, vacation, Sabbath – whatever you call it, it’s important, regardless of your profession.

As a pastor, I’m pretty much on call 24/7.  There’s the old joke that the pastor only works one day a week, but most people know it’s a joke because they know that pastors work a lot.  Between sermon and Bible study prep, visitation, meetings, planning, and being a presence at events, it’s pretty easy to work 50 to 60 and even more hours if you are not intentional about your time as a pastor.

A couple of weeks ago, during Bible study, we were working through Hebrews 4 and talking about the importance of rest.  God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  If God, the Creator of the universe and all that is in it, rested on the seventh day, isn’t it also important that we build rest into our schedule?  It was kind of ironic that we talked about rest on that particular day because I was right in the middle of a stretch where I had something on my schedule every day for about 12-13 days in a row.  I was tired.  I was worn out, and I was ready for a break.  Part of the reason I was able to do that was because I knew that I had a vacation coming up, but that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, the schedule can just get away from you before you know it.

The truth is, we weren’t built to constantly be running.  We require rest in order to function at our best.  Ever have a poor night’s sleep and then just have a terrible day?  There’s a link between the two, I promise.  When we start to fail to rest and take care of ourselves, we start making stupid mistakes – mistakes that can compound and cost us in the end.

One thing that I have learned in ministry is the importance of taking a day off, and I really mean a day.  If, on your day off, you find yourself constantly scheduling something that is not refreshing to you, then it’s not really a day off.  I do my best to take every Friday off.  There are some Fridays where something needs to be scheduled – a morning meeting, an evening event at the church.  But, if that’s the case, take that time from somewhere else in your schedule.  Sometimes, if I know that I have a couple of meetings in the evening, I’ll take it easy in the morning.  There’s no sense in working a 14 hour day consistently.

If you are working that much, then you may have a problem.  You are not taking good care of yourself, and you are going to have some serious issues down the road – relational, health, emotional.  These things are aided, not hurt, by rest.  Yes, there are times when you just have to bear down and work a little harder, but at the end of that time, you need to make sure that you get plenty of rest.

I say all of this knowing full well that next week is going to be a busy week.  It’s Holy Week.  It starts with Palm Sunday, and then just keeps going until Easter.  I know my schedule next week is pretty packed – two services for Palm Sunday, Confirmation, community worship, Bible study, Leadership Team meeting, town meeting, Maundy Thursday, community Good Friday, birthday parties, Easter sunrise, breakfast and two more services for Easter.  In the midst of all that craziness, I have to finish writing the messages, preparing the Bible study, prepping for Confirmation, visit the sick, plan ahead, and all the other stuff that comes up.  So, how am I going to take my own advice?  I imagine that the Monday after Easter is going to be spent at home, maybe working in the yard as a way to relax.  It also may be spent in front of the Xbox.  How it’ll be spent is not really the point, just the fact that it will not be spent doing things for the church.  Sorry, church, but your pastor is going to need some down time, and you can get by for one day, I promise.

My point is that rest is important.  If God finds it necessary to rest, then we ought to make rest a priority in our schedules.  If you find yourself working 60+ hrs/week every week, then you need to take some time to honestly evaluate your life.  Something is hurting, I guarantee it.  Chances are, what’s hurting the most are the things that are truly most important in your life.