I thought about titling this article something like, “What I Learned on My Sabbatical” or “Why You Need to Rest and Reflect”.
I skipped the sabbatical title because A. some people don’t know what a sabbatical is and B. most people can’t take one.
Honestly, I skipped rest and reflect as well because it sounded to clinical (read boring) and heady.
I can tell you this. After taking and an extended time away from my job and routine…6 weeks in my case...I learned a few things.
Today, being busy is glorified. Which is odd because in the next breath someone will tell you how important self-care is; it can’t be neglected!
We ping-ponged back and forth…go go go, do do do and don’t forget to take care of yourself. Honestly you can’t do both at the same time.
If you work or have a family or are trying to move forward in life there is also a pressure to achieve and excel.
In the chaos though, it is crucial to recognize the immense benefits stopping and thinking can bring. Stopping and thinking are important and a little dangerous (more on that later).
You know the reasons.
Physicians, counselors, friends and even your mom will tell you…you need to slow down. Take a break from the screens, spend some time doing things you love with people you love, and get enough sleep. Go on vacation, stop living at warp speed.
On a side note, you know what is crazy about living at high speed? You don’t notice it after a while. You get use to it, everyone else is doing it and you convince yourself this is normal.
Up crazy early, working intensely during the day, at night working on your own projects if you’re lucky, oh and taking kids to every activity, weekends filled with games and practices, trying to find room for God and your spouse and most days telling yourself things will slow down soon. Soon NEVER comes.
What happens when you stop and think?
Here are the easy ones:
- You body feels better. You do best on 7-8 hours of sleep, meals made from real unprocessed food, and several low stress hours every day. You don’t get sick as much and your health becomes a friend instead of nagging you with headaches, soreness, and a host of other health problems designed to get your attention so you will change. This all happens when you stop.
- Your brain works better. Many productivity studies show you only can work on high concentration tasks 2-5 hours a day. After that you are more easily distracted, less creative and more prone to make errors. It actually takes you longer to do your job if you work too many hours. Your brain works best with clarity and focus. Clarity and focus come when you routinely stop.
- Your relationships are better. With more rest and less stress, you are a better you. Your emotions are healthier and more balanced. So, no surprise, you get along better with people. You aren’t nearly as anxious or angry. You have patience, empath, and capacity to engage with people. Your relationships aren’t a drain but rather they fuel you when you stop.
None of these are a surprise. You know this. You probably also know; this is not from science or popular psychology. God made you this way.
God set up the world with a design for you to work, rest, and connect. It is fundamental to your existence. That is why going against it is so hard and so damaging.
Early I said there is danger here. Doesn’t sound very dangerous. The danger comes when you start to think or reflect.
Danger isn’t the best word, maybe challenging is a better choice. When you finally get a sustainable pace, you can hear God. God loves you and speaks to you regularly.
Often God’s words to us are encouragement, hope, reminders, and expressions of joy. Sometimes God’s words to us are warnings or corrections. Like any good parent.
If you stop and think, you will likely hear God speak. I did.
I didn’t know what God was going to say to me but I knew I wanted to hear it. I have no clue what He is saying to you…but I know it would be good for you to hear it.
In Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership she has a simple but valuable exercise for those who are willing to stop and think. I hope you will use it like I did.
You will get different results, results only for you, but it will change you.
The exercise is to engage two simple questions, but you can only do this once you have stopped and are willing to be quiet so you can think.
Question 1 – What does your soul want to say to God? This isn’t a prayer request (nothing wrong with those) this is a relationship question. At your core, your deepest level what do you want to say to God?
Question 2 – What does God want to say to your soul? Again, a relationship question, rooted in listening, waiting, and being patient. What is God saying to the deepest part of you?
See how this can feel challenging or dangerous. Most of us don’t do this kind of thing very often. But we should.
For me it was a little scary. I stopped, I reflected, I slowed down and realize what my soul was saying to God. I need healing.
I could give you a long list of things but suffice to say in my life I have been pressing forward
for the last 4 years absorbing hurdles and blows. None catastrophic, but all damaging.
In many ways I haven’t experienced anything unique. I am not on the verge of collapse. You have moved through many of the same things I have in that same time.
I did realize I hadn’t grieved all my losses; I hadn’t quite forgiven some of the deepest wounds and I was good at disguising some selfish ambitions. I needed healing. What does my soul need to say to God right now?
Turns out is was a simply question. Would you heal me?
What does God want to say to my soul? I am still processing that; I don’t think that is completely answered at this point. Will I be patient enough, stop enough, and reflect enough to listen? That may be part of the answer.
I don’t know all God's answer will entail but I know some of what God is saying is YES. I will heal you.
Your soul is important. These questions are challenging and a little dangerous but worth it.
You probably can't drop out of your life for six weeks. You can spend time on two questions.
What does your soul want to say to God?
What does God have to say to your soul?
Throw caution to the wind, stop and think, even if it is dangerous and spend some time on these two questions. You will be glad you did.
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