For the past six months, I had not realized how much pressure and stress that I had been under. When I was finally able to travel and get away, I found myself genuinely able to relax. With a mask on my face and hand sanitizer in my hand, I traveled eight hours from my home in the Appalachian Mountains to the coast to enjoy the sun, surf and relax. It was my first “real” vacation in nearly two years.
It might be challenging for bi-vocational or even co-vocational pastors like myself to get away from all the home responsibilities. However, I encourage you to find the time to get away even if it is just an hour from home and disconnect from the realities around you for a short time.
Upon reflecting on the trip, I have found four ways to encourage you to relax.
GET AWAY: FIND TIME TO BE ALONE WITH GOD
Had I been missing God? His voice was so evident as I decluttered my mind and refocused my thoughts, not on projects, but enjoying the sounds of the roaring ocean as it reflected its waves at me rolling in and out as I sat on the sandy beach. The thoughts of COVID-19, work responsibilities and church issues seemed to wash away as I listened not to the noise in my head, but the spirit of God in my heart. The simple act of stopping, reflecting and listening opened my soul to hear God’s nourishment that I had been longing to realize again. In the busyness of family, work and church, I had been missing the sweet sound of God’s clear voice not for direction for the other things in my life, but a clear direction in my own. Getting away allowed me to reconnect with God in my soul and brightened my spirit for the months to come.
PUT AWAY: THE BURDENS YOU CARRY ARE NOT YOURS
Pastors carry an untold burden for the flock that God has called them to oversee. At times, the burden comes with a high cost to the pastor’s spiritual and physical life. Far too many pastors suffer from depression, eating disorders and other related addictions because they have no one to discuss openly with. The burdens the pastor takes up and carries are not the pastors but God’s. I have learned from experience that many pastors love their flock so much that they want to help solve every member’s issue. However, the actual problem solver is not the pastor but God.
As I walked the beach, I could feel the collected grains of sand form to my feet, providing a path to walk on. As with each prayer request and problem, a member has one grain of sand that he or she gives to the pastor as they share, collectively they add up to take on a more substantial burden for the pastor. Pastor, know that you were not called to solve everyone’s problem, but you were called to pray and give it to God. If you are carrying a burden today, give it to the one who is ready to shoulder the burden of care, Jesus, and keep praying and seeking God as you put away other people’s burdens.
BE AWAY: DISCONNECT FROM WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND YOU
“Show up and be ready” is a mantra for many pastors, yet far too many pastors are showing up empty and are not ready for the spiritual warfare that is taking place. My wife reminded me often on the trip to put down my phone and focus on what was happening in front of me and not focus on what was happening back home. She is right, the church, the nonprofit on run, and our home will go on without me. I have learned that if you have served well, things will be fine when you are away.
Disconnecting from what is happening back home enables you to reconnect with what might have been neglected in serving others. Primarily that is your family, self and time alone with God. By silencing the distractions of reality around you, you can focus on what is happening inside you and begin to move in a way that honors God.
DO AWAY: WITH THE THINGS YOU DO NOT NEED ANYMORE
While I was away for a week, I read two books on living a minimalist life. In choosing these books, I wanted to remind myself that things do not matter as much as the people in my life. As a pastor, there have been far too many times I have put things on my to-do list ahead of my spiritual and family life. I was reminded to choose the things that matter to me and not the things that matter to the world.
It is refreshing to be reminded that I can say no to things that distract from what I need daily. Pastor, what are the things that have taken up too many yeses, when you should have said no? What no’s do you need to start using when things need to be done in the church that can be done by others and not you? By limiting your time doing things that others can do, you will have more opportunities to say yes to your future vital drivers.
As I drove away from my vacation hideout, I felt more refreshed and determined to find time to relax when I got home. For me, it is getting up early and heading to the gym; it is reading the newspaper before I go to bed at night, it is finding God in the small things I do throughout the day.
Pastor, you matter. If you want to matter to your people, you have to find time to relax and reconnect with your family, self and God.