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Learning to Turn It Off

14 Oct Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Learning to Turn It Off
Learning to Turn It Off
 

Turning It Off

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Slide to power off. I cannot remember the last time I swiped that little red slider to power off my phone. Sure, I put my phone down sometimes, set it to vibrate or even go into airplane mode, but turning it off… why do they even have that as an option? If I’m honest, it’s easy for me to treat ministry that way too, like there is no power off button.

When was the last time you turned it off? Ministry that is.

This year marked my fourteenth year working at Arrowhead Bible Camp. Yikes, where did the time go? Over that nearly decade and a half of ministry, I’ve eaten, slept and breathed camp nearly 24/7. In all that time the thought of turning it off just seemed bizarre, and yet that is exactly what I found myself thinking this summer. No, I did not want to quit and I was not burned out. God was instilling in my heart the desire to turn it off.

For the month of September, I was blessed with the opportunity to take an extended vacation off-site from camp. My goal was to spend time with my family and by myself, not thinking about camp. Thanks to some great folks I spent time in some beautifully secluded places. I visited a few friends along the way, watched some movies, put a couple thousand miles on my Harley, read a book or two and even took naps. That is right, you heard me, I took naps… in the middle of the day.

Here are a few thoughts and questions from my time that I pray might encourage and challenge you:

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“Turning it off is hard to do.”

It took about eight full days away before I finally stopped thinking (and even dreaming) about camp. Stopping the unconscious checking of email was one of the hardest things to do. For the first few days I found myself waiting for text messages or voicemails. My mind wanted to organize, make lists, and strategize. But, then it happened. I woke up on day nine and camp wasn’t the first thing on my mind. Each day that followed became like a blank canvass. I was not preoccupied with anything. I was able to focus on what was right in front of me. I was able to be present. It was exciting and eye-opening.

“I sometimes worry I might be introverted and lazy.”

It has been a long time since I have spent days on end doing nothing, or at least not having a plan to do something. Truly turning it off was a new experience for me. Looking back over the past 13 plus years, I don’t think I have actually turned it off in all that time. Why not? That thought is significant and nerve racking at the same time. Have my past vacations been missing something? Have my days off really been days off? Are my rhythms of work and rest less healthy than I think they are? Am I fooling myself at times with fake rest?

“They were right.”

Leading up to my extended vacation I had some great conversations with mentors and friends who have been in ministry for a long time. Their wisdom and encouragement seemed to be coming from different directions. Some wondered why I needed or wanted to turn it off. Others warned me about turning it off, just to turn something else on in its place.

I heard them share their own stories of much needed extended vacations, times of near-burn out and the temptation to push off healthy rest in the midst of ministry. Others told me stories about their dads, mentors and pastors who they saw living healthy ministry lives.

I was blessed to have many of them praying for me as a navigated this personally uncharted road. They were right. Extended times of turning it off are valuable; just as valuable as turning it off on a regular basis. Surprise, surprise… balance and healthiness are never too far from each other.

“Returning to the noise can be jarring.”

Truthfully, returning to camp was kind of a shock to my system. Turning it all back on was noisy. It made me realize just how quiet I had become, how well I could listen and how ready I was to be present with God. Now I find myself somewhere in the middle.

I love being back at camp. Mondays have certainly not lost their appeal and serving groups is a blast. But, now I have this experience that makes me yearn for a more balanced, healthier rhythm to life. I am excited to pursue turning it off on a more regular basis.

How are you at turning it off?

What would it take for you to turn it off for a day or week or even longer?

Comment below and tell us about one of your favorite way to turn it off. What are your rhythms for finding rest on a regular basis?

Ben Myers
Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp
Ben Myers has served as the Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp in Brackney, PA for the past 13 years. Arrowhead is a ministry committed to discipleship through its programs for adults with developmental disabilities, missions opportunities for youth groups, and mentoring of High School and College students. Ben also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and holds degrees from Cairn University and Baptist Bible Seminary.