I work in a retirement community that includes people who live independently and people who need varying levels of nursing care. The facilities are on lockdown and those of us who work there are subject to having our temperature taken before we are allowed to clock in. As a driver, I have to take other precautions when transporting people to and from their doctor appointments. Like most retirement communities and care facilities, the coronavirus situation is being taken quite seriously.

Our government has suggested that “non-essential employees” be told not to come to work. How would you like that label? But clearly there are those whose jobs are more central to caregiving than others, and I’m wondering which category my job is in. One might argue that people have to go to the doctors. But I won’t be surprised if those of us who drive are told to either stay home or work reduced schedules. We’ll see.

How about you, Pastor? Are you “essential” or “non-essential?” 

If you take the long view, you are very essential. According to Ephesians 4:1, God has given you to your church and your work is very important. But during this time when so much has closed down, when churches have canceled their meetings, when we’re encouraged to maintain social distancing – well, let’s face it: you’re probably not going to be feeling all that essential.

I don’t pretend to know God’s mind. I do not understand why he has allowed this particular visitation. But if Romans 8:28 is true (and it is), perhaps there is something that pastors can gain from this crisis, and that is rest.

Pastors work long hours. Whether because of necessity or bad choices, pastors miss days off and don’t always take all their vacation time. There’s always more to do. But now, with church closed or running on a reduced schedule, you don’t have as much to do. 

Remember that your importance is not determined by how many hours you put in. “Oh I know that,” most pastors would say. Yeah. Most of us “know” that. Few of us act that way. We’ve got our to-do list, our plans, or vision, our whatever, and we keep running until, if we’re not careful, we’re running on empty. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Be wise, dear Pastor. Take this opportunity to refresh. Spend more time with your family. Read some books that have been waiting your attention. Work where you need to, try to minister to your congregation (more on that Wednesday) as best as you can, but slow down. In a big way, slow down! Sleep in. Work from home more. Take a nap. Yes, you can use this time to catch up, but be smart. It would be so unfortunate to look back a few months from now and wish that you had used the opportunity to rest and refresh. 

I hope that you stay free from illness. Probably the vast majority of people will avoid the coronavirus. I hope so anyway. But don’t avoid the opportunity to recalibrate that God is giving you during this time. 

Maybe someday you’ll say that one of the good things that came from the coronavirus crisis (not to mention the Great Toilet Paper Chase of 2020) was that God made you lie down in green pastures, that he led you beside still water, and that he restored your soul (Psalm 23).

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