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Slowing Down to Do More

Slowing Down to Do More
 

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to announce that our dear friend and Director of Project Renovation, Rick Rhoads is taking an extended sabbatical time this semester. As he wraps up his doctoral studies, he’s been freed up from his regular responsibilities to enjoy a well-deserved rest and opportunity to brainstorm. While we’ll all miss his presence in the day-to-day, we celebrate with him as he enjoys a season of rest. In light of this announcement, we thought it’d only be appropriate to share one of Rick’s posts about embracing limitations and slowing down.

When Caring Hurts

I have a good friend named Marilyn.  Marilyn is one of the kindest and most gentle humans I know.  For years Marilyn has worked as a message therapist.  In fact, she is one of the best I know.  In her free time she cares for a significant HIV community in our local area.  Her passion always inspires me.

While off duty from her practice, you can bet that Marilyn is tending to and caring for the needs of the sick.  Often, messaging frail dying souls who most often have been written off by society.  It is truly inspiring.  Yet, every time I talk with my good friend, she is simply exhausted.  When I suggest taking a break, she often responds with a litany of, “If I don’t, who will?”, “There’s just no way”, or “How would they ever manage to _____________?”  Well, you fill in the blank.

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Marilyn is amazing, yet she struggles giving herself permission to rest.  I fear she is on the edge of burnout.

Learning to Face the Mess We’re in

A few weeks ago as part of my doctoral studies, I began reading a book entitled Active Hope: How To Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. One of the things that struck me as I read was the idea that personal energy and enthusiasm can be classified as a renewable energy. Our capacity and motivation to accomplish things of importance are a renewable resource.

I started thinking of my frazzled friend Marilyn.

Along with this concept, I was also reminded that most of us use our energy and enthusiasm in the exact opposite way – not as something renewable, but rather as something limited and rare.  When we over-extend, we start to feel the pain of our limits. It even leads us to imagine losing it entirely. As a result, we become protective, we disengage… we retract.

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New Eyes and a Sense of Satisfaction

In their book, Macy and Johnstone suggest that a key strategy for maintaining energy and enthusiasm is, “Seeing success with new eyes and savoring it.”  They spend considerable time unpacking that idea in their book, far more time than I have in a blog post to summarize, but as I read three practical take-aways started to crystalize in my mind. Particularly as I think about those of us who wrestle with this within the context of a ministry:

First, the One…

Could you be happy with a church or ministry of one?  Somehow, many of us have attached assumptions about production, numbers and the fear of not having enough to our own fragile egos. While we strive for more, we drain the very energy from our own soul.  In doing so we give to many, rather than just a few.  In the words of Wayne Cordeiro, “We confuse our capacity with our calling,” assuming that God must always demand more of us than we could possibly give. Why is it we are more willing to give little bits of ourselves to so many rather than most of ourselves to just one?

Second, Slowing To See…

When was the last time you slowed, savored and delighted in the presence of another?  I’ve heard it said before, “If we slow to see others, this is reflective of how we slow to see God.” If I can’t slow to be fully present with others, how could I expect to do so with God? It reminds me of Brother Lawrence, who spent much of his time working in a monastery kitchen.  There surrounded by food and pots, he discovered that circumstances don’t determine God’s proximity.  It didn’t matter whether he was dicing tomatoes, repairing sandals, or praying alone in his cell… anytime and everywhere God was nearby.  Have we developed the practice of slowing ourselves down in order to be with others and with God?

Third, Less Is More…

Could you imagine if we did everything in life with integrity?  I am slowly coming to the stark realization that I can only due few things well in my life.  When I attempt many things, I often do them poorly. The reality is if I am going to be a disciple committed to God’s mission, who does not overshoot but rather leaves renewable energy for the task at hand, I must slow down and do less. I must be okay with that.

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For those of us like Marilyn, passionate and active but teetering on burnout, we must remember…

A life lived out of balance could quite possibly be one of the most tragic misrepresentations of the gospel being lived out on this earth.  This disproportionate lifestyle ignores the need for rhythms, rest and subtly denies the very good limitations we have as human beings. The effects are holistic and far reaching – impacting your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.

May we find satisfaction in the slow, simple presence of the Lord. May we find contentment in doing what He has called us to be and do, and that alone.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.