Last weekend, I attended a yearly men’s conference hosted by the Navigators in Wichita Falls. The primary reason for going was to connect more with Clyde, one of my mentors from church.
Clyde is in his eighties and is spending all his time in coffee shops and restaurants with younger men, making disciples. I had heard other people talk about him and was intrigued. I approached him one day and asked him about it, explaining that he was likely doing here what I wanted to do in Italy. He said he’d be happy to meet and show me what he was doing. That was close to a year ago, and now Clyde and I are meeting every week.
When he told me about this conference, I honestly wasn’t excited about the conference itself. I have gone to my share of conferences and somewhere along the way contracted sustained burnout. But, time with Clyde on the open road for 4 hours both ways and a weekend picking his brain? Duh! I was in!! And, I wasn’t disappointed. It was just as special as I thought it would be. There were two other guys who went but I was “the disciple whom Clyde loved”. Not really, but what a guy. He made me feel so special. Everything I said, every question I asked was interesting, according to him.
But, I discovered something weird about myself during that conference once I got out there on my own. First, the itinerary was full of opportunities to connect with other men, to learn, and to be a part of something. All things I find exciting and don’t have a problem endorsing. But, I felt myself withdrawing here and there, taking quiet times for myself instead of joining the dudes on the playing field with the soccer ball. Several times I would find a place alone and read. During a long break one day while others were chatting, I went for a long walk alone. In the evening, I was in my bunk bed at 10pm, reading again. I felt a little guilty, I guess. But, something in me was also liking it. Maybe even needing it.
On the last morning of the weekend, I woke up and climbed out of my bunk bed. One of my roommates, who I’d never said more than hello to was getting dressed. I spoke out and apologized to him for being so quiet and not engaging more. I explained to him that I must be feeling introverted. It was funny, he said the same thing. He was feeling the same way. I started to realize something, I wasn’t the only one. And, maybe it was ok.
I had an awesome weekend and wouldn’t have changed a thing. But, now that I think of it, I hadn’t been alone for that long in two years. Ever since we started this journey of becoming missionaries to Italy. Two years and I hadn’t spent 3 nights without my wife and kids. Wow! What a realization. That’s a long time. After acknowledging that, my desire to find quiet places was a no-brainer.
This is why I was so happy for Amy when she went to Italy earlier this year. Haha, not because I wanted to be alone. But, I wanted that for her. I wanted her to rest. I wanted her to have extended moments of quiet where she was able to have a thought without breaking up a fight between kids. I wanted her to pray without having to answer the call of duty at home. We both needed it. And, I’m thankful we both took the chance.
If you’re going on long periods of time (even in ministry) without getting away, you need some time. Don’t make an excuse why there’s no time for that. You may be exhausted and don’t realize it. And, exhaustion immobilizes the “best” of us. Your attitude can really take a nose-drive when you’re burned out. Don’t let that happen. Get away!
I’m thankful to God for modeling rest for us and even giving us a calendar day to do so (the Sabbath). Show God how grateful you are by making use of this Sabbath day. He gave it to you for a reason.