Margaret Marcuson: Is It Time to Rest?

When is it time to push, and when is it time to rest? Our culture tells us to push on with resolutions early in a new year, but winter is a time our bodies may want to slow down and, if not hibernate, at least sleep more. This winter, pandemic exhaustion is also part of the mix.

For church leaders, Holy Week and Easter come inexorably, and preparations must be made. You may be doing extra virtual Lenten gatherings which add more Zoom fatigue. A second virtual Holy Week may seem daunting, but it has to be done, or a hybrid variation invented. However you are doing worship, it needs to happen each week, and preachers must have something to say on Sunday.  

However, this Lent I suggest you pay some attention to your own body's rhythms, in addition to the pressures of ministry. If you're tired, rest. If you're hungry, eat. If you're full, stop.

Remember the words of the psalmist, "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." (Ps. 127:2, NRSV) One year I used a devotional guide where I read that verse every day. It was a good reminder that everything was not up to me.

What are your real sleep needs? I've always had a low tolerance for sleep deprivation, which for years I viewed as a curse. If only I needed less sleep, I thought. With current research on the importance of sleep for the brain, I'm beginning to think it's a blessing.

Exhausted leaders don't make good decisions. They don't bring their best creative thinking to their work. They get cranky with other people. If you want to do your best work, try resting more. You may find you actually get more done.

Here are some questions to consider:

...How much sleep are you getting?
...What do you do when you get too tired? (Get irritable, indecisive, eat too much...)
...How do you think about rest?
...How did your family of origin view rest? 
...How might you plan your creative or hardest work for the time when you have the most energy?

Click here to get six ways to lead less anxiously and sustain yourself through these days.