Friends and Members of Fishkill UMC,
I need a break.
“But Pastor Micah didn’t you literally just take some vacation time a month ago?”
Yes, I did. Even so, I need a break.
I know it might sound strange given my recent vacation, but I’m exhausted. This pandemic, along with all the accompanying challenges, changes, stressors, and tough decisions, has taken its toll on me. Unfortunately, we aren’t yet near the end of the pandemic. Much depends on how fast the vaccine rolls out, but at this point I’m anticipating that COVID-19 will remain a serious threat into, through, and perhaps even beyond the summer. Easy and comfortable times aren’t just around the corner.
Now what commonly happens when a leader or two is feeling exhausted or burnt out, is that they’ll take a step back while others will step forward to help carry the load. But here’s the thing though: who hasn’t been drained by this pandemic? For sure we haven’t all been affected equally by the pandemic. For instance, the stresses I’ve experienced are not on the same level as what you essential workers out there have had to bear. But I can’t imagine anyone who has not been negatively impacted over the last year in some way, whether that’s physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or all of the above. We’ve all lost something.
So in times like this, where everyone’s hurting at least a little bit, who do we turn to to help carry the load? If you said, “God,” “Jesus,” or “the Holy Spirit,” you guessed it! You’re precisely right! In all times we turn to God for help, strength, endurance, and perseverance. But that’s not just about drawing from untapped reservoirs of strength. It’s also about recognizing that we can’t do everything all the time. Sometimes we need to take a step back and trust that God will take care of whatever needs to happen; and whatever doesn’t happen, maybe it didn’t truly need to in the first place.
There are a lot of good Bible verses that speak to this idea. Some about honoring the Sabbath come to mind. So too do Jesus’ instructions not to worry, trusting that God will provide for us even more so than God provides for the birds and lilies of the field (Matthew 6:25-34). In any times of trouble I find that’s a good one to read. But in this space, I’ll quote Psalm 127:1-2:
1 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.
Last year, Fishkill UMC rallied well and hard in the face of adversity. We gave 110% of ourselves to keep nearly all our ministries running as well as we possibly could, even if that meant altering our ministries in dramatic and creative ways. As I’ve said before, I am proud of our collective efforts in the face of COVID-19. However, sometimes the answer isn’t to rally together and work extra hard. Sometimes the answer is to step back, let go, and let God take control.
As we begin 2021, I want to set that tone (for myself as much as all of you). There will be some areas and times in which we need to work extra hard to get things done, but I also want us to think about in what places and spaces we can slow down or be okay with doing less than perhaps we’ve done in previous years. I don’t yet know in what ways that will manifest for us this year, but when and where it does, I hope you won’t see that as the church failing, but instead as the church finding moments to accept the rest that God gives to God’s beloved.
P.S. It just so happens I’m going to get a little break very soon. Bishop Bickerton of the New York Annual Conference will be hosting an online Bishop’s Convocation from February 8-10 for clergy self-care. I will be taking those days off from work. In addition, the New York Annual Conference will be supplying a worship service to all its churches for the following Sunday, February 14th, so that clergy don’t have to work extra hard after the convocation to put a service together. So, on the 14th, we will join the rest of the conference in virtual worship. Stay tuned for more details.