Feeding the Soul: Balancing Busyness and Times of Rest - A Guest Post
I'm so grateful to Joy for giving me the opportunity to guest post while she hammers out her novel during NaNoWriMo. :) Wishing all success to you in your endeavor, Joy, and we look forward to hearing about it when you return!
Overachievers don't have it easy in today's culture. Not only do we have internet available twenty-four seven, so that we're constantly connected to an inflow of new information, but in that specific sweet spot between highschool and marriage there's simply so much to do. Education (whether through college or independently), caring for family needs, pursuing money-making ventures, and taking time to grow in the Lord turn our days into a hectic spin of running from one deadline to another.
When we're at all equipped for ministry in the Church, the problem compounds exponentially. Truly 'the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few', and those of us who are able to teach and disciple others are sadly outnumbered by baby Christians who clamoring for spiritual food. Ministry leaders, on top of living their everyday lives, often feel so pressed to provide for needs in the Church that our mental refreshment is for the purpose of pouring it into someone else the minute we've swallowed it.
I'm an overachiever, and have been for years. I try to say yes to every need, meet every deadline, and go as deep as I possibly can with every assignment. Many of you are too; and in the thousand varied tasks that fill our days, we try to solve our problem of too much to do and too little time by making our first and biggest mistake. We stop taking time to feed our own souls.
There are no margins. There are no five minute breaks. There are no times to sit and rest. Bedtimes creep later and rising times get earlier to compensate for the fact that we are needed, and we only have twenty-four hours in which to fill those needs. Oh, granted, we take the obligatory food to keep our souls alive. Many of us still catch some Bible reading every day. Occasionally we'll scarf down a few pages in an inspirational book, chat with a friend, or watch a movie when we're tired. But I think if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that a lot of us have been living on spiritual and mental protein shakes for a very long time. Fun is a hazy concept, and relaxation must have been in with the Victorian age for the rich folks who could afford it. The projects never stop. The emails never end. The needs always press.
And some days, if we could really see ourselves, a lot of us overachievers would be a bunch of weak, anorexic souls who are crying inside over the things we can't let go, too hungry ourselves to feed others much longer, and desperate for someone to tell us that they'll understand if we don't get everything done.
So what can we do to escape this trap that we've created for ourselves?
If We Can Stop
Maybe for those of us who struggle with this work balance, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves, and the people we minister to, is the gift of taking a rest.
Taking a break. All right, we'll go along with that. But somehow that never works out for us either. We work double-time before and after to make up for it, and the breaks are only long enough to relax, but never quite enough to restore. That's not a break, and it leaves our souls just as hungry and desperate as before.
To truly take a break, we must let go of the idea that we are the only people available to save the world.
The fact is, the stories will stay in the Word Document while we refuel. People will find another article to read if we have to break on our blogs for a (reasonable) amount of time. God is able to disciple his little children even if we aren't there. It isn't our willingness to minister and refusal to rest that keeps the world spinning.
Go read a book. You know, that one book that you've been holding off on because it doesn't fit in your reading schedule. Take a nap and don't set a timer, just for the dare. Watch a movie, and sit still until you finish all of it. Make an extra-special treat for supper, curl up and have a long phone chat with a friend, paint your nails, get out that craft you've always wanted to do but never had time for. Spend a half-hour just praying and talking to the Lord, and if you tend to create a side-commentary and analysis on how you could have prayed better (some of us do), then give it a rest and simply pour out your heart to Him.
And can I add a side note? Checking blogs is not a break. Spending ten minutes on Pinterest will only make your soul feel yucky if you needed the time to close your eyes instead. The email will be there for you later. It will. And you just checked your Blogger feed two minutes ago; let the poor thing have a break too.
The fact is, any of the above activities is not an unnecessary frivolity. Play is just as vital as rest in the Christian life. R.C. Sproul Jr., in a dynamic message about balancing work and rest, said, "Play is a tithe on work. Failure of paying a tithe is robbing God." In the words of Psalm 127:2,"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." Some scholars say the Hebrew should be translated "he gives to his beloved even while they sleep".
If play is a tithe on our work, I'm an overachiever who's been robbing God for a very long time, and may He forgive me for it.
Sproul Jr. continues, "Our work lasts into eternity. Our rest touches eternity."
Our work lasts into eternity. Our rest touches eternity. And too many of us workaholic Christians don't realize that in our haste to get our work done, we are living as strangers to Heaven. For we have the joy of eternity starting now, but only if we embrace our rest in Christ and realize that "Jesus did it all."
If we can stop, then we need to take appropriate times of rest to nourish our own souls so that we can be even more ready to feed the souls of others.
If We Can't Stop
I realize that some people can't just up and take a break. There are health crises, relationship difficulties, and situations that require care every day, all day. Even for the overachievers, there are some circumstances that just don't allow us to drop what we're doing. And in this case, there is only one option. We must abide so deeply in the Lord that He pours in faster than we can pour out.
1. We must ask the Lord to help us number our days aright.
On Sunday nights I line up my sticky notes and divide up the tasks between each day for the following week. And no matter how much I have to do, whether it's manageable or not, it all gets written down, and I expect myself to get it done. Instead, I should be asking the Lord what He would have me do, and realize that the other things are not important. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1). And if I'm laboring in vain on projects that the Lord does not have for me, then I'm missing precious rest and soul-food I could be receiving.
Moses, in Psalm 90, laments the frailty of mankind, that our lives are so short and so feeble. "The years of our life are seventy; or even by reason of strength eighty." And further down, in verse 12, he says, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Teach us to realize our human frailty so that we may wisely direct our days.
We may be busy and unable to rest, but we must make it our plea to our Savior that we are not busy in vain endeavors.
2. Get some really solid support partners.
If we're so busy that we can't take a break, then we need some support partners to be there for us. To remind us to take time to feed ourselves as well as others. To pray their hearts out that the Lord will strengthen and encourage and direct our paths. To help us whenever they can, just as we help people. Even the shepherds sometimes need shepherding, and the teachers sometimes need to be taught. It's the rule in all of mankind that two are better than one. Take the Lord of the Rings, which I've been reading again recently, and which all of us here are rather fond of. ;) Frodo was given the burden of the Ring, and until he died or reached the end of his mission he could not stop or rest or pass off his burden to anyone else. But he had his faithful Sam to encourage and take care of him and carry him when the going was beyond his strength.
Take a break if you can. Pray that the Lord will preserve you from tasks you should not be undertaking. And find a Samwise to help share the load.
When Jesus was on earth, he must have had the greatest pressure to achieve that any of us have ever faced. Think of it: if you had the power to heal, wouldn't you be touching people every waking second to ease their distress? If you could ease minds and forgive sins, and give the perfect advice, wouldn't you be trying to help people with every minute you had on earth? But Jesus, even though he had the power of the all-powerful God, was only given the same energy and bodily strength as the rest of us. And he chose to take his disciples aside time and again and retreat from the busyness of life. He wasn't always able to. Sometimes he tried, but the crowds followed him, and he chose to have compassion on them. Sometimes we do as well. But in spite of the amount of work he had to accomplish, he realized the necessity of ministering to himself so that he could minister with renewed richness to those around him.
If we starve our souls, my friends, then we will be forced to offer less and less to those we are trying to reach. Take time to feed your soul. Take time to rest. And leave everything else up to the One who cares more for his needy people than we ever could ourselves.
Schuyler M. is an avid bibliophile, a young ladies' ministry leader, and an aspiring novelist. Styling herself as Lady Bibliophile, she runs a book blog, , where she posts Tuesdays and Fridays with book reviews and Christian evaluation methods of classic literature. In her spare time, she likes to listen to Celtic music, study Lord of the Rings trivia, and day-dream about what her growing manuscript would look like on the silver screen.