Since the beginning of our marriage, my wife and I have made it a habit to take time away now and then. We've not always been able to afford much of a place, but it has been near ritual to take the time to step away for a while and renew our energies--as well as our promise to each other.
Often people respond to our stepping away with a sort of cynical, prideful jealousy. "Wish I had the time to get away!" Cynical because they think they have no time. Prideful because they assume busy-ness indicates importance. And jealousy, because they choose not to make it a priority to get away--but it sounds so wonderful to them.
The one time in my life that I was tempted to run away from ministry, was the time when I'd allowed myself to go a few years without stepping away on a regular basis. I thought I was so important, that the church I served could not get along without my presence and wisdom and talents for a few days, let alone more than a Sunday or so per year. The ignorance of my ways hit me in the face the day I crashed in burnout and depression. (See http://runawaypastor.blogspot.com/2008/09/when-this-pastor-burned-out.html )
My wood stove kept the house cozy last night, even though outside the temperature dropped below freezing for the first time. Yet this morning, the remaining and glowing coals were few. The wood from last night had burned itself up in the process of keeping us all warm. And so, this morning I had to take a few moments and add some wood. I opened a vent to let in much needed air to breath coals into flames. And then I waited for a cast iron stove to renew its heat and effectiveness. And today, so long as a piece of wood is added occasionally, the house will stay warm.
When writing The Runaway Pastor, I had in the back of my mind a better plan. My wife and I have renewed our commitment to stepping away, to add fuel to the fires that keep our marriage viable, and to breath in the Grace and Peace that will keep others warm in the Presence.
If you lead in any capacity, you cannot do it on burned ash. Choose a pattern of renewal. How can you lead people to quiet pastures if you refuse them yourself? If you are a pastor, learn to step-away. It is so much better than the alternative.