I was hurrying around Tesco pushing my trolley, unaware that there was a speed trap in Aisle 11 until it was too late. A camera flashed; the Archdeacon appeared from nowhere to take up the case. There was no excuse: I was going too fast. So I was given a rather public reprimand and three green points on my Clubcard.
It was of course a dream, and like most dreams it was a little bizarre. But again, like many dreams, it gave an insight into what's happening in my life. The message it gave me was clear enough: 'Slow down!'
Most of us find it hard to slow down at the very times we need to. When the demands of work, family, church, housework, the garden, whatever it may be are pressing, then it's natural to put in more and more hours to deal with it all. And that's fine in relatively short bursts.
The trouble is, we can only sustain it at a cost. And the cost is met in various ways. Our temper perhaps: irritability at things we'd normally take in our stride. Memory, as we forget to do those important small tasks, thereby creating conflict with others and the need to spend further time picking up the pieces. Perceptions, as we fail to recognise the nuances of expression of those around us. Relationships, as we become distant and stressed, too focused on the job in hand to spend proper time with others. Health, as our body or our mind simply collapses under the strain.
You probably expect me to say the answer lies in the keeping of the sabbath, and I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, it isn't - not in my experience, anyway. It's not that simple because too many other pressures crowd in on the 'free' time we've promised ourselves. Should it be used to catch up on sleep? Get some exercise? Do the backlog of ironing? Have a meal with friends? Spend some time on an enjoyable activity? And what if just some of the day was spent on work, to ease the pressure on the days ahead? There isn't time to do it all...
Being prescriptive about taking time off is occasionally helpful, but in other circumstances it merely adds to the pressure. For example, someone caring long-term for a sick relative can't just abandon them in order to have a break. So let's look at things from a different perspective instead. Let's endeavour to be a little more patient with those who are under stress; a little more thoughtful; a little more ready to offer support and help. It can make all the difference in the world.