I have always had a strong work ethic and no one would have ever said that I was lazy which also means I am prone to being a “workaholic”. I am aware that there is a fine line between striving for excellence and working harder to create the “best outcome”. You want to give your best effort so that you can be proud of what has been accomplished and feel a sense of approval within and from those around you. Of course, there is a temporary sense of well-being, but it doesn’t last long. It becomes a never-ending journey which can be tiring and all-consuming if you allow it. Many pastors, including me, live by the motto that it is simply easier to do things yourself which means a busy schedule by default.
So… what happens if you don’t take time to rest and recoup? What occurs in our lives if we refuse to delegate to others? You become tunnel-vision, you are on edge, become anxious and weary of doing good and maybe cynical in the process. I served faithfully as a local church pastor and in the District office for 36 years. I didn’t always take a day off or all my vacation time or times for Sabbath early on. There was always an unfinished list of tasks on my desk and in my mind. If only I worked a few more hours, the list would grow shorter. Yea, right! Maybe my longing to be an effective pastor or simply my perception of what a fruitful minister looked like, drove me to give more time and energy to my role.
I thought I was fine, but I could have been a better leader if I had rested more and allowed God to speak to my heart in times of stillness and quiet. I would have been a deeper person and pastor if I would have sat longer with God and others along the journey but there were more things to be accomplished, I thought. I am still learning to take better care of myself, but it has required me to go against the natural flow of my life. I think with age and maturity has come the needed wisdom to see that life is not a sprint but a long-distance run. I better pace myself if I want to remain healthy and live a life of significance.
This past July, I took my first Renewal Leave after 36 years of ministry. As a District Superintendent, I was given permission by our Discipline and my Bishop to take some time away from my regular routines. It was the first time I ever gave myself the opportunity to pull away for an extended leave. I had to go against my natural inclination to work harder as if I could achieve a greater sense of worth through what I accomplished.
It was a time to rest and put aside the calendar and simply be me. I could do whatever I wanted to- kayak, hike, see the grandkids, go places, read, spend time with God- and it was truly relaxing and enriching. I know every Renewal Leave looks different depending on the person and their personality and need at the time. My renewal leave was just what I needed to be refreshed and to return with a deeper sense of who I am and what God has called me to do and be. What a wonderful tool our church has made available to every pastor so that we can continue to be the healthy spiritual leaders God has called us to become in our churches and communities. Yes, we strive for excellence and doing our best but that requires times to stop along the way so that God can speak to us and help us reflect on the journey. To be certain, the sun will still rise each morning whether we are working or simply resting on the sideline and God continues to be Lord even if I take a breather.