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Keeping Sabbath Keeping Sabbath

I recently took a vacation. I did almost nothing for the whole week. For the first four days, I just sat on the porch and read. I was really, really tired.

Far too many people live in a state of constant fatigue. They never have energy, and those around them grow weary from the complaining.

Sometimes the fatigue gets so bad that people think they need to visit the doctor. “There has to be something wrong with me,” they’ll say to the doctor. Yet, a disease is rarely found. While Chronic Fatigue Syndrome does exist, it’s far more uncommon than one would imagine, given the number of people who seem to be running on empty.

The cause of most people’s fatigue is the same as it was for me – too little sleep and exercise and too much food and worry. As a doctor, I was failing to take my own advice. More importantly, as a Methodist minister, I was failing to keep a Sabbath.

Our bodies are not designed to go at full speed 18 hours a day, every day. How many e-mails do you receive that are sent from friends at 2 a.m.? We never stop. Religious or not, we need planned rest – a day (or even a week) to turn off the computer and television and turn our brains instead toward the things that bring us joy.

Until the last 30 years or so, Sunday had been regarded as a near-mandatory Sabbath day in America. Blue laws kept stores closed, mothers made sure their families went to church and computers hadn’t been invented yet. Now, Sunday is a day of work only slightly different from the rest of the week. The result is a dangerously fatigued nation.

Another part of the problem is that we all – myself included – think we’re indispensable. We think the world will spin out of control without our efforts to save it. For example, I coach a little league team that had a game starting at 9 a.m. on Palm Sunday morning. I had to preach that Sunday, yet I still felt guilty that I wasn’t at the game with the kids. No wonder I was exhausted.

We are far more effective and generally more fun to be around if we are well-rested. This means we have to take care of our bodies as well as our spirits. We can offer our best rather than just showing up cranky and aloof because we’re tired.

Now I know that some of my friends are reading this and thinking, “Yeah right. I know Scott, and maybe he can do that because he doesn’t have kids or elderly parents needing his attention.” I hear you. I’m just suggesting we bring the activity down a notch or two.

If you are feeling fatigued, I encourage you to start honoring a Sabbath in your life before you start chugging some miracle cure advertised on television. Once a week, set aside a day of rest. No cell phone. No text messages. No quick trip to the store for something you can do without until tomorrow. No list-making or planning in your head. Just have a day to let God speak to you and to take in the wonder of being alive.

Photo courtesy of Altmix Photography.

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Rev. G. Scott Morris, MD, is founder and CEO of the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the largest faith-based, not-for-profit primary health clinic in the United States, providing health services to over thirty-thousand patients who are working but uninsured. Dr. Morris is a physician and a United Methodist pastor.

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