General CBF

Otium Sanctum: Taking time for holy leisure isn’t always easy

By Judith Myers

“For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health of food, of love and friends, for everything thy goodness sends.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

How do you practice sabbath? Is it on Sundays? Vocational Ministers, do you practice sabbath on Fridays? How do you get away and how do you find rest? If you’re in the big city like me, but tend to find peace in the mountains, it is sometimes difficult to practice sabbath.EJH_3186

I’m in a class entitled Christian Spirituality this semester. It’s a pretty fantastic class that focuses on different spiritual practices. We’ve spent time in prayer, walking labyrinths, reading Barbara Brown Taylor and talking in small groups. We were also asked to participate in a week of otium sanctum, which means “holy leisure.” Sounds easy, right? Well, not always.
When this project was assigned, I got excited because this fell at perfect timing. It happened to be the same week of my best friend getting married. I could take advantage of having a calm moment within the chaos of the wedding–or even be able to carry myself through the wedding to end in a time of intentional sabbath. God’s (and Art’s) hand in timing was perfect. My favorite spiritual practice is called Creative Clergy. A dear soul, Suzanne, hosts these gatherings with and for other women clergy. I’m always excited about the time I get to spend with her (and the others who attend). Suzanne has this calmness about her. She is a beautiful soul that encourages the serenity of her gatherings.

During these gatherings, we get together, catch up and spend intentional time together being creative. We begin by acknowledging that the space is holy ground. We take time to be still and silent as Suzanne leads us in a guided imagery. This is a time for ministers (vocational and non-vocational) to step away from the craziness of church work and the chaos of their beautiful congregations. It is a time for students like myself to learn how to be intentional about self-care.I chose the second option for my Creative Clergy this month. It’s typically easy for me to walk into her studio and leave the world at the doorway. Today was different.

I traveled to Suzanne’s for Creative Clergy, and entered her space in hopes of this being another successful day of intentional sabbath. After this wedding weekend, I. Was. Beat.

My body was hating me by Sunday morning. Staying up late and constantly being around people since Thursday night makes this budding introvert super tired (and cranky). I was in a completely different mindset than usual, and just could not get in the right place to be still or present. I’m also trying to fight this head-cold/severe allergies/body aching illness (which I didn’t realize until after I left).

IMG_4772I believe in sabbath and taking time for self-care–that’s why I love Creative Clergy so much. It’s such a beautiful time that is intentional. But with everything that I had just done, and all the work I knew had to be done in the following week, today’s healing just did not work. How humbling is that?

It’s how I feel after (what I think is) a crappy sermon, too. Some days are just going to suck. It’s humbling to know that we’re not perfect. We’re human. Some days just don’t work. That’s okay. You go home, regroup, and try again later.

As I’m processing through my not-so-awesome spiritual experience with Suzanne, maybe it was just an off-day. It’s important to understand that I really do love and get a lot out of these Creative Clergy experiences. I think today was just bad timing (contradictory to what I first believed). But again, it was incredibly humbling knowing that not every spiritual practice is going to work 100% of the time.The beautiful thing about Suzanne is her challenge for us to be open around the table. Her table is always set. It’s always open and ready for community and creativity. I’m excited to return to this holy space another day, open to new experiences and finding my way back to caring for myself.I’m ever grateful for that table that’s full of paints, pens, paper and invitations to be creative. Thanks be to God for what has been at this table. Thanks be to God for what will be at this table.

May it be so.

Judith Myers is a CBF Leadership Scholar attending Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

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