Bill Hybels, the founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, has for a number of years been very open about a period of burn-out in his own life. Willow is one of the largest congregations in the Unites States with a weekend attendance of more than 20,000 persons. I remember hearing him speak about this period in his life at a conference. One particular phrase he talked about has stuck with me, and it’s what a Christian Counselor said to Hybels; “I don’t care what you do for recreation, but you’ve got to do something, you have to take the time to recreate, to let God re-create His life in you.”
You and I would do well to heed the words of that counselor in our own lives. Religion is often limited to discussions about God, whereas spirituality happens when a lone human being allows God to work in his or her life. Spirituality is about letting God re-create you more and more into His image. You can close the door on God. You can run through life so fast that you’re not giving God a chance to restore your soul, to refresh your desire for living. I’m not talking about taking a six month sabbatical or going to live in a monastery. I’m talking about learning to live your life seasonally.
If you want to be a person of spiritual maturity you must take charge of your life’s schedule and find ways to balance intense busyness with quiet time. Many churches follow what is called the church year that has several seasons such as Lent and Advent. The idea of the Church calendar is to schedule life on God’s drumbeat and not society’s drumbeat. The executive director of the camp and conference center where I onced worked had an excellent grasp of this concept. During the season of Advent, which is basically the month of December, her family would intentionally slow down and limit their outside commitments. They would go out twice a week to the movies or to dinner and spend more time together as a family. In addition, the director would limit the amount of meetings she would attend during that month. During others times of the year she would be going non-stop but she understood the need for seasonal balance.
That’s the kind of thing you and I need to be doing. Perfect balance is of course impossible because life is messy. Yet how many of you have no seasonal diversity in your schedule at all? An annual two-week vacation doesn’t count for seasonal diversity by the way! Use the church calendar or don’t use the church calendar if you don’t want to. But find a way that works for your living situation to live life like Jesus did. Maybe you need to finally take a lunch break. I have a friend who works in the corporate world where the standard fare is to take a working lunch. However, he retreats to Star Bucks daily to inhale coffee and have some quiet time for spiritual reading. Walking the spiritual life is always going to put you out of step with the world’s perspective, but more importantly it will put you in step with the divine perspective.
Christian living does ask us to deny ourselves at times in order to serve others and make a difference in the world. Christian living sometimes asks us to work long hours or to volunteer some of our days off for a good cause. However, every person eventually reaches that point where they no longer have anything to give. A follower of Jesus who constantly gives will quickly find that he or she no longer has anything to share. By not resting you not only endanger the health of your own soul but your ability to be a blessing to others! If you continue to use your cell phone and never stop to re-charge it, what happens? It stops working, right? You and I are no different.
As Christians we are called to be artists painting the colors of grace and love over the wounds of this world. We are to be busy bending down to reach the people no one cares about and using spiritual ladders to reach those who seem impossible to touch. Christ is the head painter, the master artist, and the one who takes our painting errors and paints over them with his own brush which is dipped in the color of royal red. There is a job to be done, which is painting the world with the color scheme of Christ. Yet as you strain and feel the aches in your back from long hours of spiritual painting, remember that Jesus is telling you to take a break. Share a laugh. Enjoy good food. Notice the blessings God has given you. The season for painting will come again soon enough. Rest for now, paint later.