I write this from my bed, recovering from my second surgery in a year for endometriosis. I function pretty well most of the time, save for the week or 10-12 days per month that I am in crippling pain. Endometriosis is a nasty disease in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus and attaches itself to other organs and tissue. This rogue tissue responds to hormones and causes scarring and pain from internal bleeding.
This disease has taken away my ability to bear children, through extensive scarring. This disease has also damaged my kidneys, through the amount of painkillers required to control the pain. Right now the progression of my kidney disease is stable, although I am chronically anemic because my kidneys do not function properly. This fall I have completed a series of iron infusions that allow me to live a somewhat normal life although I still require more sleep than the average person and find that my stamina for long days just is not there anymore.
As I am forced into a period of rest by this latest surgery, I find myself reflecting on the importance of Sabbath and of being still. I have a demanding job as a full-time trauma chaplain, spending my evenings in the largest trauma center in my city. It is far too easy to keep racing through each day, without taking time to process what I experience or to rest my mind, body, and spirit.
We are commanded by a loving God to engage in restoration and Sabbath. This is a way of honoring the beautiful and beloved creation that we are and of honoring the God who made us in God’s image. I view pain as a message from my body, telling me to step back, take a break and know that the world can continue on without me for a time. This is the essence of Sabbath.
My body reminds me more frequently than others’ of the importance of rest, but we all need time away from the demands of the world to reconnect with our own soul and the presence of the divine. For me, this reconnection involves time spent with my loved ones, time spent with my golden retriever Annie, and volunteering at an animal rescue, where the pure joy of animals feeds my soul. I also find Sabbath in contemplative prayer practice and journaling.
My body’s limits also remind me of the importance of boundary setting and of protecting my time for rest. I have learned to preserve my free time and have learned the importance of saying “no” to things for which I do not have time or do not nourish my soul.
How do you practice Sabbath in the midst of a busy world?
Amy Hanson is a trauma hospital chaplain in St Paul, MN. She is board certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains. Amy is pursuing ordination in the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) and is a graduate of the Iliff School of Theology. Amy spends her free time hanging out with her dog Annie, volunteering at an animal rescue and is on a quest to try coffee from every coffee shop in her city. She blogs at www.amychanson.blogspot.com.
This is the second essay in our series on Faith and Illness. Click here to read Passing Through the Waters, by Rachael Keefe, about living with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and symptomatic bradycardia; look for the next essay on the first Wednesday in December. If you are a clergywoman with a story to tell about faith and living with illness, email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about writing for the series.
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