Tomorrow is my birthday. Yes, I am saying this so that I can be wished Happy Birthday from many of you, but also, it is integral to the story I’m about to tell. Normally, and in fact for the past seven years, I’ve worked on my birthday. Either I was on a middle school mission trip with several 6-8 grade youth, or working a rummage sale, etc. This year, I won’t be doing any of that.
My wife asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I had no ideas, which is quite odd for me, usually I’m full of ideas. This got me thinking though - I might do nothing. Usually during this time of year, I’m super busy: tracking down paperwork, making final payments, going on mission trips, planning after VBS events, planning for the fall already, etc. This year a lot of this has been taken away because of COVID-19, and so I think I might take some time and just do nothing.
Now usually when someone does this, “this” being nothing, there is a sense of guilt, especially when we know there’s so much that we could be doing… and especially, ESPECIALLY when one is a pastor. Pastors tend to over-function at all time, but especially when there’s stressors, turmoil, or disruption (all of which defines what we’ve been going through as a nation lately). So, when I try to do nothing, there’s this little voice that says, “You should be doing this,” or “You should be doing that,” and I have to remind myself of three things.
1) An empty pitcher cannot fill cups.
In order to do the work that we all must do, in order to give life to others, we have to have something to give. You cannot continue to pour out without refilling yourself once in a while. A pitcher’s main role is to fill others, but it cannot do that unless it takes time to be filled as well.
2) The choir will cover you.
When there is so much upheaval going on, so much social justice to fight for, it can seem extra selfish to take time for yourself, but that’s why we don’t fight alone. In a choir if you’re singing a long note together, there might come a time when you need to take a breath and this is fine, because the choir will cover your breath until you come back in. It’s called staggered breathing. You take the breath that you need so that you can come back in and continue singing, which then enables someone else to take the breath that they need. In fighting injustice, we all need to take a breath sometimes so that we can continue to fight and allow others to take the breaths that they need.
3) Jesus took breaks like these all the time.
We’re told throughout scripture that Jesus went off to pray alone often. This was his way of recharging his batteries, getting refilled, and able to jump back in the fight again. He could’ve continued to preach or heal or teach every waking moment, but he knew that he needed time. We shouldn’t think that we are somehow more able than Jesus was to fight through being drained. Jesus, our example in all things, showed us that there is a frequent need to recharge. That in order to do our best for others, often we need to fill ourselves up, give ourselves energy, rejuvenate our spirits.
With these things in mind, I encourage you to ignore that little voice that tells you you’re wrong, but instead to fill your pitcher, breathe, and then come back energized and ready to continue to fight the good fights, struggle against unjust systems and vileness, and be part of the choir so that others can breathe too. Amen.