By Deacon John DeGano
I have been talking about taking a day away from the office for close to a year, but something (and/or someone) always came up.
At our annual diaconate retreat we were challenged to find Sabbath rest in our weekly lives. A day or even a moment when we were at peace, quietly reflecting on our lives before God and just being.
As deacons and wives of deacons, we can easily overcommit because we are first and foremost about service to God and others. We struggle to find balance in our lives—marriage, church, family and job. And did I leave out leisure?
We are mostly agreeable types, and are frequently the ‘go-to’ people when a commitment wasn’t honored but the work remains to be done.
And so, we jokingly say, the first thing we are taught in diaconate formation is the word, “No.”
I said, taught. It’s another thing to actually allow ourselves to utter the word. It seems so final.
And so, after consulting with my wife, Cheryl, I gave myself permission to begin keeping the Sabbath rest this week.
And a rather strange week it was. One where appointments were ‘sliding’ all over the place leaving me behind in my efforts to get out the door in order to continue to fulfill another Lenten observation and self-imposed obligation: Spending time outside the confines of my office with people.
It was in reflecting on my Lenten practice in light of Jesus’ ministry of service that I came to the conclusion that I had grown complacent by putting the onus on visitors to come to me instead of my seeking them out, as Jesus did at the Pool of Five Porticos, when he asked the invalid laying poolside, “Do you really want to be healed?”
Why, I asked myself, did I not see that before? I needed healing, too. And so, I made the commitment to myself to develop better habits. I decided to embrace the Sabbath rest.
Now Sabbath resting is not an easy thing to do.
In our society, value is placed on the ‘Rush! Rush!’ and those who march to a different drummer are seen as slackers and worse. Even our leisure time has to be ‘jam packed’ or we think we have been cheated.
We all need to develop Sabbath space in our lives to just be still with God; to allow God to minister to us and ‘recharge’ our spiritual batteries. It doesn’t have to be a whole day, but whatever time we give needs to be done with intentionality.
Jesus, after all, retreated often after dealing with the crowds that followed him wherever he went.
We can ease ourselves into it, retraining ourselves as we go to accept that ‘doing nothing’ is doing something beneficial for our body, mind and spirit.
To let go and let God have this time and space in our lives.
My first Sabbath rest may not have been totally successful (I felt somewhat guilty writing this column), however, I returned to the office full of energy and joy.
I can’t wait to see what next week will bring.
John DeGano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.
PUBLISHED IN THE JULY/AUGUST ISSUE OF THE INLAND CATHOLIC BYTE