by Rev. Racquel Ray
Assoc. Minister of Congregational Life
The day is new each morning. The year is new each January. In these cycles of renewal, God’s revelations unfold before us and we become co-creators of the newness. I am not normally one who makes New Year’s resolutions. But, this year I have committed myself to continue the journey toward wellness that I wrote about and preached about last spring.
The Apostle Paul wrote, in Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” The verse is titled ‘Glorify God in Body and Spirit’. I’ve often felt this verse should be cross-stitched, framed and hung in the kitchen as a reminder to make healthy food choices. Perhaps the version from The Message is clear, “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.”
As I recover from covid and its lasting symptoms, I’ve returned to what I know to be true for my wellness. I have gone ‘back to basics’ for my own self-care: hydration, nutrition, rest, movement, sunshine, and fresh air. Years ago, I made a wellness ‘first aid kit’; a list of the things I need to feel and be healthy. When I face a health challenge, I return to that basic list and begin [again] with step one resetting to basic health. Step one always involves basic nutrition and chopping vegetables. So, I have a wellness mantra, ‘Time to chop vegetables’ when I don’t feel well.
If we are to truly glorify God in our bodies and spirits, we need a wellness mindset. If we take Paul’s advice we would understand that not all things are good for us. Though we are capable of doing great things and accomplishing great feats, should we?
I’ve been asking myself this question since Christmas. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I remember saying to my family each night, ‘just one more event/meeting/email/service…’ then I can rest. And, day after day, the list kept growing. By Christmas Day, I was exhausted. And though we cannot always prevent ourselves from being exposed to illness, we can take steps to keep ourselves from being rundown when we do cross paths with a contagious virus.
The Southern New England Conference has been studying clergy wellness over the past year and has found that most clergy members are rundown. Many are retiring or changing roles. Many are exhausted and seeking extra medical and mental health support. Some are resetting their wellness routines. Some are falling flat and struggling. The conference has suggested that churches encourage their clergy to take an EXTRA two weeks of renewal in 2023; time to rest – just rest.
I know that community exhaustion is not limited to clergy! We’re all tired! Parents who have juggled distance learning, covid pauses, teacher absences, child care center closures, working from home, and caregiving for their families are tired. Spouses whose loved ones are at high-risk for illness due to underlying health conditions and are the person who gets the groceries and does the public facing chores and errands are tired. Those of us who are grieving the loss of loved ones are tired. Healthcare workers, educators, hospitality, small-business owners, and care givers are tired. We are all tired.
So, as God reveals what we will co-create for 2023, let us remember that though we are capable of ‘doing it all’ we do not have to. Though we can make it to one more meeting it may not be beneficial for us. Though it may be possible it may not be profitable to our wellness. Beloved, this year, take time to rest. Take time to chop vegetables. Take time to renew, take a walk, breathe, drink water. And let us commit to one another to make space for each other to rest, glorifying God in Body and Spirit.