In Pursuit of the Spirit: The Search for Sabbath in a Busy Life

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I recently started working at a local church as their Church School Coordinator, and while the job will soon be just ten hours a week, for the past three weeks it has been closer to forty hours a week as we get ready for the beginning of Church School. It’s been my choice to work that many hours because I get paid by the hour and we need the money, but choice or not, it’s been hectic since our son, Caleb, is only in daycare twenty hours a week. Adam has helped with childcare as much as possible, but as a youth pastor he too is gearing up for the beginning of the program year and his workload is not insignificant, so we have been limping along, trying to make it all work.

I’m a big believer in Sabbath. Adam can be a workaholic at times and I’ve been known to nag, harp on, remind him that he should take off at least one day a week. I can see the toll it (eventually) takes on him when he’s been working too hard for too long: suddenly ministry becomes a weighty burden that he can’t seem to get rid of, work relationships become strained, and perspective about the relative importance of things is lost. And I can see the toll it’s taking on me as well: I have less patience, I feel worn out, life feels heavier. But deep-seated convictions and empirical evidence do not displace our need for income to pay rent and buy food. And recognizing the problem does not change the fact that there is still laundry that needs to be done, meals that need to be planned, a dog that needs to be walked, and a seemingly endless list of other household tasks that need to be accomplished during the increasingly rare days off.

So how do we, I wonder, create space for Sabbath and rest when the tasks of life seem to require all of our waking hours? And is it possible to carve out space for rest without defaulting on our rent because we didn’t work enough hours or creating rifts in our marriages because we didn’t do our fair share of household tasks?

I’m not sure some days.

But what I do know is this:

The Spirit calls us to life. In this moment of my life, the balance between work and rest is (perhaps necessarily?) off-kilter. But the Spirit calls me to rest and greater balance so that I might live life more fully, and enjoy life more abundantly. And I know that while I can’t find a full day for Sabbath, I can find moments. I can close my eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes between tasks. I can acknowledge the demands on my time and still choose to sit with Caleb for a minute to play cars or read a story. And I can continue to look for places where I can cut back or carve out more time for rest and relaxation, trusting that the Spirit of God is looking with me, helping me to find a better balance between work and rest.

Blog-HeadShot-300x300Sarah Walker Cleaveland is a spiritual director, preacher, teacher, retreat leader, and writer. After graduating from Hobart & William Smith Colleges with a degree in religious studies, she spent two years working in Christian Education at a Presbyterian Church and a Presbyterian Retreat Center. She earned her M.Div. at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, married her husband Adam, then earned a Masters of Theology from Princeton Seminary. Adam serves as Associate Pastor at Winnetka Presbyterian Church in a suburb north of Chicago. Sarah is currently chasing their two and a half year old son Caleb and developing her spiritual direction practice.

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