Recently, I participated in Selah, a pastor’s sabbath through the Synod of Mid America for pastors who serve PC(USA) churches in Kansas and Missouri. On the first day, we were invited to a 10-minute time of centering silent prayer. As I was quiet and still for that relatively brief period of time, I become acutely aware of how much of my life is spent working in one way or another. As I settled into silence, my body was urging me to not just sit there, get up and do something. It was an illuminating reminder I am too seldom truly still in mind as well as body even when I am asleep. Even in sleep, my brain frequently minds me of the list of things yet undone (like this article for Friday Faith).
Even so, as human beings made in God’s image, we need regular time to cease working on the endless to-do lists and simply rest and be still in the presence of God. I was reminded yet again that sabbath is a commandment, not a suggestion. My struggle, now and always, is how to continue to incorporate what my soul and heart knows with the enormous expectations our culture demands of our time. It’s not just pastors. Almost everyone I know feels stretched to the limit by professional, family and civic responsibilities.
The program title “Selah” is a word used 74 times in the Hebrew Bible — 71 times in the Psalms and three times in Habakkuk. The meaning of the word is not known, though various interpretations exist. Selah is most likely a liturgical or musical mark giving instructions on the reading of the text, something like “stop and listen.” Good advice in these busy and often chaotic times.
For this program, Selah is intended as a sabbath experience for pastoral leaders to take time to “pause, reflect and relax.” For me, that meant meaningful learning on cultivating pastoral imagination, getting to know new colleagues and deepening relationships with others, reading that had nothing to do with my work, time to play at Great Wolf Lodge (water slides are fabulous fun), deep and renewing conversations about faith, life and calling, sitting in the sun and restful sleep.
In the course of your week, how often do you truly pause? I don’t mean standing in the middle of the kitchen wondering why you walked in there in the first place. How often do you allow yourself to “pause, reflect and relax?” Since returning, I am continuing to read for pleasure, being mindful about restful sleep, and pausing throughout the day away from screens and electronic devices to stop and rest in God’s presence.
The Rev. Celeste Lasich is at First Presbyterian Church, Hays.