Thursday, February 23, 2012

Busyness, Boundaries, and Solitude

But Jesus often withdrew to solitary places and prayed.  (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:13)

God does not yell over the craziness of life to get my attention.  Instead, He whispers in the quiet moments of a focused devotional life.  The minute the phone gets turned off and social media gets blocked, I can hear.  I don't experience God on Facebook - I encounter Him most often in quiet places.  The moment I withdraw to a safe place, the better I feel.  It doesn’t even require an expensive whirlwind vacation to “get away from it all” – only margin and boundaries in my daily life. 

Jesus withdrew to solitary places for good reason.  Too much connectivity with the crowds along with the demands of ministry was draining.  On one occasion, He even got into a boat to withdraw to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13).

For the last couple of years I’ve been writing on this blog about this topic, even revealing my fatigue and the need to establish some margin in my life.  I’ve been saying all along that I was going to do this or do that, but haven’t really done much of anything to actually change my situation.  It’s been all talk.  As everyone knows, the road to ruin is often paved with good intentions.  So I have decided to make some changes in my personal life and work schedule. 

Funny thing, when you are in the pressure cooker all the time you simply muscle up and deal with it.  And if you stay at it long enough it begins to feel normal.  But that’s crazy.  It leads to exhaustion and an eventual crash-and-burn.  Though the Bible honors hard work, it also condemns overwork as foolishness.

For the last six or seven weeks I've been working my way through the process and there's still a long way to go.  I’m pushing back from the busyness and my workaholic pace.  I’m going to slow down and simplify. I’m going to unplug a lot more. There will be less noise, fewer phone calls, shorter to-do lists, regular work hours, and almost no evening meetings (which are the bane of family life), unless something is urgent or an emergency arises.  Some things can just wait until tomorrow to get done. 

I cannot attend every event that takes place at PCC, so I won’t try.  I have hobbies and interests (outside of work) that I want to have time for.  And I’m going to establish boundaries between my home life and church life – the two are not the same, you know, nor should they be.  Besides, pastors who make themselves available to everyone for everything are seldom any good to them when they are truly needed.

It’s very easy to get caught up in a squirrel cage of activity, spinning too many plates on the end of a stick. All of this leads to a diminishing shelf life for pastors. They just flame out because they burn candle from both ends.  Even my own pastor was not exempt.  His health is ruined, he's out of the ministry, and lost his wife.  Me?  I’m not going to be a causality of the ministry.  So I’m pushing back from the busyness and establishing clear boundaries.  My schedule is going to look different too.  You may not see me as much as you are used to, but when you do I will be in a better state of mind and much healthier.

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