"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." -- Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)
This will be the first week since the end of June where I won't be heading off on Sunday morning to step into the pulpit and preach the Word to God's people. Though it has been a pleasure to return to a weekly preaching schedule for most of the past four months--and I think I preached more in these past four months than I did in my whole last year in Ohio--I'll admit that I'm ready for this break. As a parish pastor it was a fairly simple three-step process to recover from the drain of preaching:
1. Go into the study on Monday (or Tuesday) morning, close the door, and meditate on the Word.
2. Get on my knees and pray.
3. Go to the hospital and visit the sick and suffering in the congregation.
Doing those things always helped me to be able to get past the crash of preaching the previous Sunday so I could begin to prepare for the next.
Preaching ten of the last twelve weekends has left me in need of some serious spiritual refreshment. Now that I work a full-time job outside of the pastoral ministry, that recovery process is not so easy. Although I am able to a certain extent to set my own work schedule, that doesn't include a whole lot of time for me to sit at my desk and meditate on the Word, much less pray. And I obviously don't have shut-in or hospitalized parishioners to visit. I can spare some time here and there, but I have to make do with the barest fraction of the time I used to take to refresh myself spiritually. I also don't receive the body and blood of Christ as often as I did as a parish pastor, as I would frequently commune with my shut-in members. My prayer life is better now than it was before I went to seminary, but it's not nearly as healthy as it was when I was a parish pastor. As a result, I find myself worn down, more susceptible to weaknesses and temptations, less patient.
I'm an orderly person in some respects, not the least of which is that I like to have a fairly good idea of what my schedule will be. I can alter that schedule as the need arises, but I work so much better when there I have structure. (You should have seen my bookshelves in my study in both North Dakota and Ohio. Faith thinks I'm OCD, and she may be right.) But right now, in order to garner for myself more time for spiritual refreshment, I must be more flexible than is my usual wont. I must utilize the flexibility I have when doing my recreational reading to fit in more theological reading and reflection. I must find more time in my life for prayer. I don't think it is necessarily salutary to abandon all my amusements, because those help refresh me physically and mentally. But I can have a better balance. I must have a better balance.
Wisdom's highest, noblest treasure,
Jesus, is revealed in you;
Let me find in You my pleasure,
And my wayward will subdue,
Humility there and simplicity reigning,
In paths of true wisdom my steps ever training.
If I learn of Jesus this knowledge divine,
The blessing of heavenly wisdom is mine.
-- LSB 536, though I like the TLH translation better