I had to fill up my car’s gas tank today. With all of the errands we’ve run for Upper Room’s new space over the past few weeks, plus several trips to the airport, it seems I’ve been stopping to get gas a lot recently.
My dad told me once that one should never let the gas gauge stay below half-a-talk. We were filling up his Toyota at Bruton’s Conoco station in Delta – a frequent occurence since he lived miles outside of town. I had asked why he always filled up when he didn’t really need to: the tank wasn’t on empty yet. I don’t remember the exact answer he gave, but I remember the advice. Now, I see how the wisdom of that advice applies to other areas of life.
Having a new church move to a new space ran our tanks down to near empty last week. By the time this past Monday rolled around, I was exhausted, and a couple folks on our steering team had nearly burned themselves out getting the space ready. A lot of us worked more hours than we should have, didn’t take time to rest or nourish ourselves spiritually, and did not pace ourselves wisely.
The rhythms of sabbath and daily office have been two ways I’ve learned to fill up my tank before it gets empty. Taking one day per week to avoid all church work and do things that are restorative and life-giving has kept me alive over the past year. The daily office (short times of liturgical prayer at a few fixed times of the day) is a practice I’ve slid in and out of, sometimes keeping it regularly, other times not. (It’s becoming easier, though, since I discovered the online version of Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours.) Not surprisingly, the times when my tank stays full are the times when I maintain these practices. Also not surprisingly, I’ve found both more difficult to keep with all of the busy-ness of Upper Room’s move.
There are many ways sabbath and daily times of prayer are beneficial, but what I realized today is that much of the benefit simply comes from the rhythm. Drivers are less likely to look at the gas gauge and see it on empty if they fill up regularly (like my dad tried to teach me). Likewise, we’re less likely to find ourselves spiritually drained when we embrace rhythms of work and rest, action and prayer, community and solitude. The trick is convincing ourselves that it’s necessary to fill up even if we don’t see the warning light. Rhythms help us fill up even if we don’t think we need it.