I have been thinking a lot about nurturing recently. Part of it has to due with the clinical depression, but not all of it. Earlier this year I went through The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Every week it was stressed how important it was, not only to take care of ourselves, but to nurture ourselves–especially our inner artist. The child in us who loves to draw, color, paint, write and not be told what to do. It is also because of the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. We cannot love anyone else if we do not love ourselves. Sally’s Friday Five, Extravagant Unbusyness also brought this up. How do we take care ourselves? How do we treat ourselves?

Several of you wanted me to write poetry and post it this week. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t write any poetry (but it’s still a goal). But I did do two things on my list:: I took a long hot bath, and I started reading The Golden Compass. In fact, I got a good ways into The Golden Compass last night. The characters are great. I also like Pullman’s writing. He’s a wonderful storyteller. I think Wicked was the last novel I read, and that has to be at least three months ago. I need to take the time to read fiction. I love it. I get so caught up in the books I’m reading for my writing projects and launching the church, that I’m not reading something just to read it and have fun. I enjoy what I read for work, but it’s that: work. All reading cannot be for work. The same with writing poetry. Not all writing can be for work. Some of it has to be fun and just because. So yes, I intend to keep that one way of nurturing myself: writing a poem, just because.

My wonderings (and wanderings) about nurturing myself have clicked with the observance of the Sabbath. This idea that we need a day off to rest, to worship, and to recoup. A day where it’s okay to stop and take care of ourselves. I wonder if we kept a Sabbath, if taking care of ourselves and nurturing ourselves would be so hard. Because it would be ingrained in us to stop, to worship, to rest, to relax, and to have fun one day a week instead of being on a merry-go-round of always having to do something. And I’m not talking about a strict do nothing observance of days past where one did nothing except go to church and then sit for the rest of the day.

In her book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn says that not all activity has to cease. Just work: what we do to feel productive, make money, pretend to give meaning to our lives. The work we cease from doing is the work we do to live. The Sabbath is a day to trust God: to trust God to take care of our needs without us doing anything. The activities we can do on the Sabbath are those we enjoy doing and may be don’t do because we see them as frivolous: taking a walk through the park, playing in the park, gardening, sewing, crocheting, taking a nap and getting some well-deserved rest, or may be writing poems and reading a novel. It’s doing things that free us from the mentality that we are what we do and how much we produce.

It’s also a time to leave behind the world’s way of relating to each other in using people for what we can get or for what they can do for us. It’s a time to receive God’s unconditional love, knowing there is nothing we can do to earn it. It is a time of learning to give and receive that unconditional love from each other. It is a time of love and give as God loves and gives. It’s a day of feasting and celebration. It’s a day of worshiping God together and being the people of God without worrying about anything apart from communion with God and communion with one another.

The Sabbath makes it okay to stop. To stop and take care of ourselves. To stop and love and rejoice with other people. To stop and focus on God and his love. I think if we took the Sabbath seriously, we would not have such a hard time taking care of ourselves and nurturing ourselves. I think if we practiced the Sabbath we would not feel guilty of nurturing ourselves because God himself rested after creation on the Sabbath. Right after he created human beings in his image, he rested. We are made in God’s image, and we are made to rest on the Sabbath. Part of being made in the image of God is a day of rest, worship, nurture, and feasting and fun.

I’m beginning to think about this as I will begin to pastor and “work” on Sunday again. Marva published a book last year that I need to read: The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World. I need to get it because it is so hard to observe a Sabbath when you’re a pastor. I remember that. It’s doubly hard when you’re bivocational. I remember the burnout from that. I’m hoping I get a sense of how to keep the Sabbath while pastoring from Marva’s new book.

The picture is “The Risen Lord” by He Qi.