Today is a milestone for me in several ways.
It's the first day of a new fiscal (financial) year for our ministry at CROSSROADS.
Its the first day of October, my favorite month of the year.
It's my first day back as a consistent blogger after some time off from writing.
And it's my first day back from an extended break that I desperately needed.
With the exception of two events, I essentially took the entire month of September off from traveling, writing, leading, conducting meetings, and doing work. This was quite honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done because September is usually one of the busiest, and most fruitful, months of the year for me as a preacher, writer, and pastor. I had to turn down opportunities. I had to say no to friends who wanted me to preach for them and their churches.
What would make me say no to the very thing I am called to do? Why would I willfully choose to NOT do the one thing I LOVE to do?
4 Reasons We Need Time Away
1. Spiritual Discipline - The culture that I do ministry in expects and applauds hard work, activity and results. Every voice that we hear is telling us to achieve more, do more, create more, buy more, win more...in other words we will never hear any voice emanating from our American culture that says, "You should slow down and take a break." The only voice that says those words to us is the Holy Spirit (and in my case, my wife...whom I often times confuse with the Holy Spirit because they sound so much alike).
We must discipline ourselves to do the hard things that we don't want to do, but that we need to do. Think: eating healthy, exercising, quitting soft drinks. Time awayis just that; it is a "spiritual" discipline that allows us space to rest, to hear God's voice, to re-calibrate our souls to the Spirit, and to break loose from the choke-hold that our culture (and even ministry) places around our throats.
2. Physical Rejuvenation - The human body has limits and I like to push those limits to their breaking point. As I approach 40, I realize that my body doesn't bounce back like it once did. I can still push myself, but I need more time to recover. The word "re-juvenate" actually means to "become young again." That is what rest does for us. God designed our bodies to heal themselves, but in order to do that our bodies need proper nutrition and sufficient rest. It can come in the form of naps, sleeping in, going to bed earlier, or chunks of time filled with margin that you can fill with something relaxing, refreshing, fun and rejuvenating. For me it is reading, playing with my boys, dates with my wife, riding 4-wheelers and watching good movies.
3. Emotional Healing - I knew that if I didn't take some time away, I was going to have a serious breakdown. The previous two years have been filled with loss, grief, depression, sleeplessness, fatigue, and worry. Both my parents died and I was left with major responsbilities that consumed even more of my time (which was already stretched thin in the first place). So for the past 18 months, I essentially stopped writing (both books and blogs) and focused on caring for my father after my mother died. When he finally passed away, I didn't know what was wrong with me emotionally. Like a human body that has endured a horrible car crash, my emotions were beaten and bruised. And like an injured body needs time to heal, my emotions needed a season to recover from the trauma that I had suffered.
4. Family Reconnection - For me, this was the most essential element of my time away, because my family is the means of grace that God most often uses to sustain, encourage, and heal my mind and soul. During the past 24 months, my family made innumerable sacrifices to allow me to handle the failing health, and ultimately the death, of my parents. I had made huge withdrawals from the family account, and it was time that I made some big deposits back into my relationships with my boys and my wife.
So we took a vacation out west and rode dune buggies and jumped off cliffs into a river and visited the Grand Canyon on Jacob's 10th birthday. We watched movies and played games and acted silly. We went to Carowinds. We went to Canada. We had fun! And we didn't feel guilty about it. And the more time I spent resting and playing, the deeper the healing went. I could feel the weight of fatigue and depression lifting off my shoulders day by day.
I will always struggle with taking time away, but I recognize that battle is fought daily in small increments when I choose to turn off the phone, open the Bible, or sit on the couch with my children and help them with a school assignment. Work can wait. My family and my health can't.
What's wearing you down right now? What small things could you do to begin the spiritual discipline of getting time away?