Monday, March 3, 2014

Sabbatical and "Leading On Empty"

This past weekend our family took a sabbatical and learned a valuable lesson in restoring our souls and resting our spirits. I knew it was bound to happen--the breaking point. After two weeks of a feeling of hopelessness, disinterest in things that normally energize and motivate me, unexplained irritability, and a lack of physical activity, it was obvious that a break from our normal routine was nothing short of necessary for our emotional, relational, and spiritual health.

We spent the cold, snowy weekend cooking together and enjoying slower meals at the table, snuggling on the couch with books, movies, and my crochet projects. Heaven! We built a fort in the living room and the boys found out that the cabinet in the hallway makes a fantastic club house! It was so nice to just sit beside Matt and enjoy being with him. Our schedules don't usually allow us to wake slowly together in the morning, so we welcomed this sweet luxury for two days in a row. I had missed the kids piling onto our bed in the morning, poking, jabbing us, giggling, and begging for "chokit miwk!" It was so sweet to breathe this family time in, and both Matt and I feel refreshed and refueled for the coming week.

We aren't responsible for a significant amount of things, but we recognize that if we want to be great at what we are responsible for, then we have to steward well our time and energies so that we can be the best leaders we can be, no matter what the area of leadership looks like. For me, it's leading our children in life, in their spirituality, and in their education. Then it's leading a small group of other believers alongside Matt. For Matt, it's carrying an important load at work in which many other employees rely on his skill and efficiency. Then, together leading the small group with me as well as leading our family in life decisions, finances, spiritual health, etc. We also have mentoring relationships that we enjoy pouring into.

And one beautifully effective way of ensuring this is to take scheduled, periodic breaks from the responsibilities. Skip church for a weekend or visit a church where you won't feel obligated to serve or even be recognized. Don't take phone calls from others who need something. It isn't that you don't care or don't want to help; in fact, it's the opposite. If you get the restoration you need, you will be far better equipped to help others when you return to your normal schedule.
Sometimes we think: "I don't want to be that person who just doesn't show up to serve or help" or "They're counting on me" or "I don't think they can do it without me" or "If I want it done right, then I have to do it myself." All of these statements sound valiant, but if you live by them continually, you will find yourself down a path of burnout much faster than you wanted or expected. And by then, the culmination of your responsibilities or ministry could be such a mess that you aren't sure it can be repaired or restored.

I have been reading a fantastic book that has helped me recognize the signs of burnout in my own life: "Leading on Empty" by Wayne Cordeiro. This is a power-packed book that will cause you to continually stop to write down one of the author's thoughts because it is so worth remembering. If you find yourself leading absolutely anything, I suggest this book highly. It is written by a pastor, and while we are not pastors ourselves, the principles and techniques he gives in keeping at the top of our game are more than relevant to us in our own leadership avenues. And I'm almost certain they will be for you, too.

It's easy to not think of yourself as a leader, but I would argue that you are. And if you are, then you, too, must protect and nurture your own energies and time so that you can be the best leader possible.

Peace of Christ to you,

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