The past couple of years at the preschool were becoming more and more taxing upon me emotionally and physically. One week that really stands out to me was a few years back. I was logging a lot of overtime. I never said no because they were low staffed and I had a particularly challenging group of children and I cared for the children in my classroom and did not want them to struggle with a new person. I also knew the subs and knew that no one wanted to come in and deal with my children or their parents. So I regularly worked 10 hour shifts the week leading up to that day.
I knew I was getting run down. I could feel the lack of energy, the rising stress levels, and after multiple weeks of being run down I could feel illness setting into my lungs and respiratory system. I wasn’t sleeping well and yet when some of the staff approached me about helping them with their homework for their classes, I did not say no. I would stay late after the ten hour shifts and sit sometimes for hours helping them write their papers and helping my colleagues to understand their assignments. I like to see everyone be as successful in their ventures as they can be. Then I would go home and try to get caught up on house work and would still need to make dinner.
In the evenings, I would work on worship for the next week and put thought into my sermons. And it was the Christmas holiday season to top it all off. I had to go gift shopping, find time for my mother-daughter day with my mother, and I still had to make cookies and plans for Christmas Eve and then for Christmas day. I wanted to give as much of myself to all the different people asking something of me. I wanted to care for everyone’s needs and so I would take some musinex, a decongestant, and Aleve in the hopes that the cold would run its course and go away.
I didn’t have the time to get sick. I didn’t have enough energy leftover to care for myself as well. And sure enough, when I ignored the warning signs that my body gave me, I got really sick. I had to leave early from the preschool to go to the clinic because I having problems breathing. I had walking pneumonia. I was taken out of commission for a week to recover and was yelled at by my doctor for not taking care of myself.
Last week we looked at the intentions behind our care for others. And as I promised, this week we will look at who needs care. At times it seems as if the demand for our attention and care seems to come from all around and we want to truly give to everyone. We are often taught to be selfless and to think of our own needs is seen as selfishness. We all struggle with this throughout life. We all want to attend to the needs of others but, what I have learned from experience and from our scriptures is that, we need to include ourselves in the list of those to be cared for. We cannot truly care for the needs of others without caring for our own needs as well. We have physical, emotional and spiritual needs that pull at us and God never intended for those to be pushed to the back burner of our lives.
Our scriptures talk extensively about Sabbath keeping as a form of caretaking. We heard in Joshua how they battled to find land for their people to live on in the land of the Canaanites working day and night. But then the Lord gave them rest. Rest helps to restore our souls and to build our strength. It is so important, that God very specifically said that we need to observe rest in the form of the Sabbath day. Sabbath rest has long been pushed to the side when it comes to living a life of care.
We either just have no time to worry about ourselves, or we are too absorbed in our work to think about ourselves. Or we feel guilty to think about our own respite time. But God was very clear that to live a life by his commands as good people and good Christians is to care for one another and for self. Now I understand that it can be quite unreasonable to take whole days at a time. But it is quite reasonable to ask for an hour to do something for ourselves that helps ground us and care for our needs. We all need to have that Sabbath care, that Sabbath rest, to prepare us for the challenges and the stressors in our own lives. We all need to have a bit of a time out in life. When we don’t take ourselves into account, we are taking huge risks with our own well being and we risk not being able to care for others needs as fully as we want to.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it … for whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his”. Rest is just as important as care for others. We are called to a life of care and we are not required to be perfect, but we are called to consider ourselves with the same compassion and care as we would for another person or for a loved one. Care was always intended to be holistic. It is meant to be life changing, giving depth to our experiences, giving depth to our lives. We are called to add just one more person to our pray of compassion; just one more person to our list of those who need help, who need care. And that one person has to be our own person. We are challenged to find that Sabbath rest.
For me it has appeared differently at different turns in my life. For a long time it was running, it has been meditation, reading a good book, finding a group of people or friends to support me, reading the Bible, singing or going for long walks with the dog. For you it might be something else. But that one hour could be just the rest that you need to revive your energy and give you perspective, to clear your head and reconnect you to the Holy in ways that you haven’t been able to do in a long time. I challenge you to find your Sabbath care for self this week. Next week we finish up our series on care and we will take a look at the question of when we are called to care.
 Hebrews 4: 1 and 10, RSV.
(Based on Joshua 21: 41-45 and Hebrews 4: 1-10)