Slow Down and Read This Blog

“I’m not sure I can keep doing this.” I said those dejected words through an exhausted face to my one of my closest friends at a table in Chick Fil A a couple of years ago.   My tank was on empty, and I just wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep doing my job effectively. It felt like everybody wanted a piece of me that I didn’t have to give, but despite not having anything left, I kept giving. Until all of that “giving to others” led me to the place that I wasn’t sure how to give anymore.

My friend lovingly listened to me as I poured my exhausted heart out to him. “I love my job. I love my family. I love my life, but I feel like I don’t have anything left to give to any of it.” Finally after he had been listening to me talk for quite some time, he had me a question that looking back was so benign and simple, but that question truly opened up something inside of me. He looked at me and said, “When was the last time you went on a vacation, and you really got away?” I couldn’t think of an answer.

I knew right then what I had done. I had become so busy pouring my cup out into other peoples lives, I hadn’t stopped to consider whether I was filling my own cup back up. The pace of my life had removed all free space to rejuvenate my soul, but I also realize I’m not the only one this scenario happens to.

Wake early. Have a late meeting. Meet a deadline. Make sure one kid gets to soccer practice while the other gets to gymnastics. Don’t forget to do your budget since it’s the beginning of the month, and your house has some repairs, which need to be taken care very soon. Does any of this sound familiar? We are all running at a pace that is unsustainable, and eventually like a car with no gas you lose your ability to move forward if you don’t pull over and fill up your tank.

Jesus said “28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 emphasis added) Jesus has no desire for you to live a restless life. I know it feels like there is always more to do and accomplish, but in Christ we have the opportunity to slow down. Let me give you four signs to tell if your life is to busy.

  1. You don’t celebrate a Sabbath.

The Sabbath was an Old Testament reminder that once a week we need to slow down and do nothing. You read that right. Nothing. In our 7 day a week 24 hour a day society, the idea of taking one day off a week to rest seems absurd. Even if we aren’t technically at the office, we can still check email, make phone calls, do projects around the house constantly. There is always something to do. If you can’t take one day off a week on a regular basis and just rest, then you are too busy.

In a world where traditions and history seem to hold little value anymore, I would make the claim that the concept of the sabbath is a tradition that still holds great value in our society.  Have you ever noticed that you can do more, see more, be connected more than any other time in history, but our collective society is more stressed, anxious, and fearful than any time in history.  Maybe our constant motion has removed our ability to slow down and pause from the unsustainable pace, and like a runner who goes just a little farther than his body can handle, we collapse. Your stress, anxiety and fear probably isn’t due to the fact that you aren’t doing enough. It’s probably due to the fact that you aren’t resting enough, and I don’t just mean sleep.

We need regular, routine, rest that is built around the rhythm of our lives. My sabbath is on Mondays.  It’s my day where I am able to rest every single week. Your sabbath will probably be a different day, but regardless of what day it is.  You need to have a sabbath in your life. This sabbath helps you break away from noise and clutter of life, and gain clarity that is so often needed.

  1. Your schedule reflects everybody else’s wants and not your needs

Jesus tells us the second greatest commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  The assumption Jesus makes in this statement is that you love yourself and take care of yourself. Sometimes we become so good at being there for other people we forget to take care of ourselves. It’s ok for your schedule to occasionally reflect you doing what you want to do. You need free time to breath. It’s ok to play a round of golf. It’s ok to read a fiction book. It’s ok to have friends over and just play some board games together. It’s ok to do what you want to do sometimes.

If you have ever flown on an airplane, then you have heard the instructions from the flight attendant about what to do if the airplane loses cabin pressure. If the airplane loses cabin pressure, then oxygen masks will drop down from the ceiling. Then you take the mask and you secure it over your mouth in order to allow the oxygen mask to function properly. They also say if you have children with you to put your oxygen mask on before you put the child’s on. That has always seemed odd to me. Wouldn’t you want to save the child first? One would think that to be true, but the problem is that if you try to save the child before you save yourself, then you run the greatest risk of both of you dying because neither got the mask on in time.

The same is true for your life. You are so busy making sure everybody else has his or her oxygen mask on while you need to take time to put your own oxygen mask on and get a breather.

  1. You can’t get away from the crowd.

If you ever took time to read through the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) you would notice that Jesus regularly stepped away from the crowd to be by himself. He was teaching us the importance of rest and rejuvenation away from the crowd. The challenge in our society is that we are 24/7 connected to our tribe. Through cell phones and social media we are constantly involved with the crowd, and we rarely step away. Being connected all the time is a gift and a curse all at the same. We can answer people’s question quicker and more efficiently than any other time in history, but we also feel the need to constantly check everything.

You need to have regular periods where you can get away from the crowd, by unplugging from social media, leaving your phone in another room, and just getting away. I love the lyrics from the poem Be Present by Propoganda. He says

“Like sand her name is Time, And she told me a secret.

She said multitasking is a myth you ain’t doin’ anything good just everything awful.

And she begged me to stop stretching her thin and stuffing her full, and stop being so concerned With the old her and future her, but love her now

Her presence is God’s present, and you should be that, present”

 You have time to slow down. Quit believing the lie that you constantly have to be available for everyone all the time. Your pace isn’t sustainable.

  1. You can’t remember your last vacation

If you can’t remember the last time you went on a vacation, then it’s probably time to get away. Even if you can’t afford to actually go anywhere, then take a “staycation.” It doesn’t cost you anything to stay at home for a few days and unplug from life. Read a book. Watch some movies you’ve always wanted to watch. Invite some friends over to play a board game your all love. Go on a vacation.

My wife and I are going on a cruise in a couple of months with some of our closest friends, and we are incredibly pumped about it. It’s going to be a time where we have fun with our friends, do nothing by the pool, and just rest. We’ve saved up for it and paid for it with cash so we don’t have to be stressed financially. So we are going to use those five days to refill our cups. Doing this will make my wife a better mom, a better hairdresser, a better wife, and it will make me a better husband, dad, and pastor. Because getting away gives us time to recharge and unplug.

It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, stay at home mom, business owner, or simply an employee at a large company you need to get away. You will find that if you get away and have fun it will give you more energy to work even harder in the long run. People whose emotional, physical, and spiritual cups are full have a tendency to be better bosses, employees, and friends. We have been hardwired by God to have rest, and if you can’t remember the last time you rested, then it’s time for a change.


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