I was once in a meeting that was called to adjourn rather abruptly. We weren’t done our work, and the man who called for adjournment was a high-powered type of guy, very serious, the kind of guy that gets work done and that you are happy to have on the committee. As we were leaving I asked why he called the meeting short, “I have kids and we have a date to build sandcastles tonight, and those things don’t build themselves.” It was the kind of attitude that makes me think the Church is still a great place to be involved in and where family and parenting are still valued, even if the valuing of them costs us something sometimes.
Quite a long time ago Samuel Butler noted that “to do great work a man must be very idle as well as very industrious.” It’s a quip that I like because I am a person that spends a portion of my days in prayer, in starring at walls, at trees, at whatever, as my mind lolls about. Even so, I am also one that tends to work too much, do just a few too many hours, and empty my tank. I don’t see this as such a problem, tanks after all can be refilled, and quite easily as long as they aren’t allowed to run totally dry.
I’m just like countless other ordinary pastors working away within a body of people, seeking signs of grace and love, opportunities for connections and corrections, and trying to help folks see why grace is so important. C.S. Lewis said, “A man can’t always be defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.” We Presbyterians have taken that sort of thinking to heart, we work hard, but we also take our breaks, weekly, and annually.
I am about to wind down for a while, to spend time with family and friends, with beers, wines, and if I am really lucky Bocce. I am not the best at this, I have a pile of book I hope to read, but I know I will read less and less as the break lengthens from days to weeks. Abraham Heschel wrote that, “labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art.” I will be seeking to master that art of the next little while.
I think I read somewhere (I figure I did because it is too clever for me to have come up with) that a big part of why we have such trouble resting, leaving projects fallow, is that in our school system we learned that you don’t stop until everything is completed, which in the artificial environment of school is possible, but which in the real world is not. There is always something to be working on, some project not yet completed, some goal or aspiration that not yet begun. This makes us uncomfortable stopping, we are trained not to. Well, fight the training I say, and take that deep break.
God himself took breaks, and Jesus called us to take breaks. I won’t bore you with a long paragraph about how not taking breaks means we don’t trust God to take care of things…
Heschel also wrote that, “the seventh day is a palace in time which we build.” I love that. A palace we build because restful time is luxurious time, a time of fishing with children, wandering the forest as a family with dog in tow, and a romantic time, if you are my family it is sandwich-on-the-bare-belly by the lake time.
I plan to build a few sandcastles with my boys this summer, real castles, but I will at the same time be building a palace in time, memories that they won’t forget, peaceful and calm days of summer (and not so peaceful too, let’s be real). If you are looking for me you will find me with a small kids shovel in my hand, a book left opened and half-read nearby, or holding a glass of wine chatting with my wife. Please don’t interrupt me, it’s time I need. It looks like I’m not doing much, but that is only if you’ve never built a sand castle.