Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Evolution of Sundays Off

I remember the day I received my first real paycheck. My wife and I were paid on the same day.

There were four digits on the paycheck for the first time in my life.

We didn't take a big vacation, or splurge on an electronic toy with those paychecks. There were student loans to pay and a car to buy. That first pay day I remember we went to a movie and then bought good food, and plenty of it. In seminary we had many kinds of tricks to make the most of our small student wages. There were twenty dollar hugs from my in-laws. We took advantage of grocery giveaways at the grand opening of a Rainbow Foods near our apartment. A local bagel shop dropped off day old bagels that didn't sell in married student housing at Luther Seminary. My dad, who worked for S&W Foods, had a few cases of rice for us from rotating stock. I became quite the rice preparer, especially rice pudding. To this day, my wife will barely touch rice because we ate it so frequently. That paycheck changed our entire outlook. We savored food in a new way.

Sundays off in our twenties were similarly savored. We treated them like a perfect steak or August harvest home garden vegetables. In our vault were four Sundays off and two more Sundays for continuing education. Protecting those Sundays off, we would drive for hours to and from a Saturday night event just so we didn't have to use a Sunday off. The effort allowed us the opportunity to visit our families, enjoy our friends, and take a few trips to Europe. As associate pastors, the responsibilities were a little less strenuous. It was hard work, but we always had something to look forward to, and didn't carry all the burdens on our shoulders. Sundays off were currency for exploration, not rest.

For the first six months of 2014, I did not take a Sunday off. I had never waited so long to take a Sunday off. The trade off was too much; I have felt the driest I ever have--sermons, prayers, compassion, study. All of these things wilted. I know U.S. culture does not look on days off gracefully, but I'm starting to understand the necessity of Sabbath. Even God took a day off. Sabbath gives me perspective on my relative importance in the cosmos. While Sundays off were the currency of exploration 10 or so years ago, today Sundays off provide me the space to breathe. Breath happens to be a way God delivers the Spirit. On working Sundays over time, I don't recognize my own breath. I need the breath of the Spirit to see where I am going.

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