[Part of the Sabbatical Series]
I was working with the worship team for a new church plant, the last stop before heading into a month-long personal retreat in the mountains of Tennessee. Saturday had gone well, I thought. Feeding off the enthusiasm of these young musicians, I engaged first with the leaders and then facilitated a couple hours of conversation with the full team. Heads were nodding, hearts seemed inspired, and we ended with a short worship time together that lifted my soul.
Half-way through lunch in a crowded, noisy restaurant, however, I was drifting, and despite the calorie boost, I could feel my energy leaking quickly. I gutted it out through the afternoon, knowing that these good people deserved my best. Sunday morning though I was little improved and coasted through the worship service on auto-pilot. What was wrong with me? I wondered.
It was evening as I drove into the retreat center and settled myself into a cute little cottage. Pouring myself a glass of wine, I sat on the deck and just stared into the distance, strangely content and still. For an hour I simply watched leaves dance, chipmunks scamper, and the setting sun light up a distant ridge. I ate a quick dinner, scanned a magazine briefly, and closed my eyes. Eleven hours later my eyes opened again. Eleven.
“Dangerously tired” were her words. Two months ago I heard Ruth Haley Barton speak about the tendency among Christian leaders to just keep going until they drop. There are very few voices urging us to rest, to restore our souls and recalibrate our vision. Instead, duty to God and our own fragile egos drive us onward, eroding the very life of God in ourselves that we seek to grow in others. A sinister plot that we play into ever so willingly.
So what if we could turn that trajectory and find a new rhythm, a new way of being in the world? What if we could stop long enough to hear the very words of Jesus to his disciples following a busy stint: Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). What if we could renew our souls and reclaim the passionate energy that used to fuel us?
In short, you can. You just have to want to. You have to pause long enough to check your vitals and gauge the state of your soul. It’s okay to come off the race track and let the pit crew fill up what’s depleted. It’s hard to change the tires when the car is moving! Are you just winded…or are you dangerously tired? You might not even know until you come to a stop.
So do yourself a favor and come to a full stop. Find a 3-day block somewhere over the next month and get radical: go away somewhere restful by yourself, completely off-line, and see what happens. (You can even go where I went!) No work or technology. Physical rest, outdoor walks, spiritual reading, a bit of journaling. The people you lead deserve the best you have…and so do you. This might just be the best leadership decision you ever make.