Writings by Cole Huffman

A Refuge Called Tuesday

If Tuesday went missing from the week, would anyone miss it?  I would, because as of yesterday Tuesdays are my new day off.  I restructured my week to accommodate weekly staff meetings on Monday mornings (the old day off).  Years ago a pastor-friend in Texas extolled the benefits in making Tuesday his weekly Sabbath day, not the least of which for him, an avid golfer, was more vacant golf courses on Tuesdays.
I’m calling Tuesday my deep-and-quiet day (sounds better than a Mitch Albom-ish Tuesdays with Myself).  Because I like my work, and because it never feels done, I’ve struggled for years to develop a…well, workable rest ethic.  I’ve read books on Sabbath and heard lectures that no pastor is invincible—keep pushing yourself, keep burning the candle at both ends, keep producing and not restocking—and you will eventually burn out like a star.  I always went away from those books and conferences feeling a mixture of longing and conviction and befuddlement because, while I believed in a God who purposefully demonstrated a rest ethic for His people—and even preached to others about it—I was myself the castaway.  I always found a way to exempt myself from the need: my kids are small and active in stuff; my church has a lot of urgent needs for leadership; I need every day to do the writing I want to do; I’m not really a workaholic like so-and-so across town; I like my work anyway; etc.
For a lot of us pastors the struggle to rest consistently and well is compounded by a strain of insecurity in which we fixate on those who don’t believe we “really work,” and thus we feel a greater press to prove we do.  A case-in-point: In the city we moved to Memphis from, I visited my insurance agent one day to adjust a policy.  Directing her secretary to the needed forms, she nodded toward me and committed a Freudian slip: He doesn’t work…. No!  His vehicles are not for business is what I meant to say!  She looked so sheepish and I assured her, over her profound apologies, that I took no offense.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t wince.  But note to self: next time wear my suit to the insurance agent’s office.
I am finally comfortable admitting my need to intentionally pull away from the routines and demands of my work week, to find refuge in this little retreat called Tuesday.  I do it penitently because I cheated on Monday these last few years and did not protect it as a different day.  I scheduled rendezvouses with work and sermon prep on Mondays.  I think I know now what I missed.  So to Tuesday I pledge a renewed faithfulness and zeal for its honor.  Tuesdays are my deep-and-quiet days.
A deep-and-quiet day (and my thanks to Mike Schafer at Sonscape Retreats in Colorado for the term) is day on which I create or produce nothing that I am otherwise creating or producing, or sustaining, the other six days of each week.  This means no writing, no studying, no sermonizing, no meetings (and no tweeting either) on Tuesdays; only reading for pleasure and unhurried prayer and “whatever your hand finds to do.”  I may watch a movie in the middle of the day, visit the zoo, drive somewhere just to hear the hum of my truck’s tires on the road.  Lunch with Lynn will be a highlight of most Tuesdays.  Lynn had a lunch commitment yesterday, so I took Caley Kate up the street for chicken sandwiches in that restaurant that treats Sundays as I’m treating Tuesdays: closed for business.
One Tuesday every six weeks or so, I will take a personal retreat off somewhere, alone.  But otherwise on Tuesdays I’m present to my family and engaged with them.  The key is to do with the day what relaxes and refreshes and replenishes.  Yesterday that included a two-hour mountain bike ride on the Wolf River trails and greenway.  There I found a perfect prayer spot by the river.  It was a beautiful morning.  But because I’d pedaled there through thick brush in which I recognized poison ivy vines, I knew I needed to get home quickly and scrub my legs with dishwashing liquid (it works—no itching I’m thankful to report).  I know now where to return for that missed prayer time yesterday.
I don’t have illusions about Tuesdays being perfect.  I’m not after perfect anyway; peaceful will do nicely.  It’s funny to me now, how when I was in seminary I assumed I’d have to work at working in my ministry career.  Instead I’ve found I have to work at resting.  I have a long way to go.  But I know now on what day I’ll get there.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 9:33 PM
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