How embarrassing to get caught in the middle of nowhere, run out of fuel for your motor! I suspect some of us have been running on fuel-fumes lately and maybe even burnt out, forced into a life layby, or even worse ‘crashed’.
There are periods in my life, when I’ve been so spent in service and work that I’ve been forced to listen to my body, significant others and God’s still small voice telling me to stop and refuel. After 5 years as a minister at Fullarton (now 32 years), such was my workload pressure that I was surely heading for a ‘breakdown’. I signed up for a monthly ‘time-out’ day with John Campbell and colleagues away from ruts and routines of regular work to reflect on mission and ministry. What a watershed it was, the dawning realisation that my greatest handicap was not my congregation’s expectations of me, high as they were, but rather my own unreasonable expectations of myself, based on my own attempts to prove myself as a decent Rev and the workaholic tendencies of others I’d served with.
I started to devour the writings of Eugene Peterson, discern the difference between the cycles of grief and grace, and use healthy disciplines to help me better practise the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’. These disciplines are now daily (quiet time with God & phone-protected mealtimes and sessions with loved ones), weekly (day-off work & date with Dorothy), monthly (accountable meeting with mentor), quarterly (retreat days to reflect and look forward with hope), annual leave (6 weeks) and 7 yearly (3 – 4 months sabbaticals combining study-leave and holidays to re-Jesus, re-jig, rejuvenate and renew vision). Add to this a readiness to plug into in-service learning and access outside help to develop our presbytery and congregational mission & ministries.
Like most other years I reached this summer ‘spent’, in need of rest and renewal. Queue time-out in The Highlands with some scenic cycling and days waking up without an agenda. 3 supersonic cycles (Braemore – Gairloch, Plockton – Skye, Sheildaig – Applecross) were highlights. During pandemic videoing #60secondspeedbumps has become another useful discipline for me in practising Jesus’ constant and consistent loving presence. Yet, on reaching the summit of the iconic Bealach na Ba (Applecross cattle pass), I was so spent, pooped, gubbed and cream-crackered that I had nothing new or fresh to feed into a #60seconder! It was a sobering reminder of the need for ‘breathers’ and times to replenish if we are to carry on and thrive. With the help of a banana, wine-gums, grace, grit, gravity, stamina and determination I completed the Sheildaig loop.
Friends, make sure you get some good breathers and times out this summer and have in place good disciplines designed to maximise hope and purpose in your life. Please pull into filling stations well before the near-empty signal comes across your dashboard.
Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”