Contributor – Heather Quiroz- Staff Consultant with Ministry Architects and Youth Ministry Director at First Baptist Church Aledo
Irritable. Angry. Exhausted. Tired. Defeated.
This was me not long ago, and no, I wasn’t pregnant. I was burnt out. I was at my wits’ end. I had been running a million miles per hour, “doing ministry for Jesus.” I had neglected my own personal time with God and was suffering because of it. Ministry for me had become a chore. I had lost my passion and was ready to throw in the towel.
If I could be quite honest, I was doing less “ministry for Jesus” and more ministry to be seen by others, filling an unhealthy need for performance and was being led by deception – filling my plate with too much – before truly consulting God on the matter.
As I sat there in my office, ready to be done, God met me. It was time to hit the TIME OUT button and get re-acquainted with my first love. I had very quickly become like the church of Ephesus in the book of Revelation 2:4, “You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
After much repentance and a lot of tears I made the decision. It was time to get away be with my Father. It was time for Sabbath in my life. I started a Master’s degree that fall and in one of my first classes I read a book that hit me right in the heart. In Ruth Haley Barton’s book “Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation,” she says,
“The longing for solitude is also the longing to find ourselves, to be in touch with what is most real within us, that which is more solid and enduring than what defines us externally. This is our soul, that place at the very center of our being that is known by God, that is grounded in God and is one with God.”
In a culture consumed with performance, we quickly allow the applause of the masses to drive us forward instead of longing for the praise of our heavenly Father who “sees what is done in secret and rewards us” (Matthew 6:4). In a culture like this it’s easy to get distracted and not make Sabbath a priority.
Since I started making Sabbath a priority how I felt about ministry and life began to change. Now I use these words to describe myself:
Peace. Joy. Delight. Hope. Perseverance.
Your soul needs Sabbath, more than I think any of us truly understand. Barton says, “When we don’t attend to our vulnerabilities and instead try to repress it all and keep soldiering on, we get weary from holding it in. Eventually it leaks out in ways that are damaging to us and to others.”
I’ve been there, but by God’s grace, I’m not there anymore and it’s because I started taking time for my first love, Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll take time for Sabbath too.
- Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, Ruth Haley Barton. IVP Press, 2006. Kindle Edition.
- Holy Bible: NIV. Chicago: Moody, 1994. Print.
Melissa, Brent, Nate and Bryant continue their discussion on sabbath with some ideas to implement sabbath in your week.
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Contributor – David W. Carroll – Lead Consultant with Ministry Architects, one of the country’s leading ministry consulting firms. He retired in June after 34 years of pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church.
By stroke of good fortune, and I’m sure the grace of God, I was afforded the opportunity of a November beach trip. Mind you, it was a working trip – not just the “fun’n’sun” type trip that we typically dream of, but it WAS a beach trip nonetheless.
We stayed in a beautiful house about a block and a half off the beach but with easy walking access to gorgeous white sand and salty ocean breezes. While we spent most of our time working through business processes and making improvements, honing our craft, and increasing our skills, there was yet some time for beach volleyball and for those renewing walks by the ocean’s edge.
For those times when we couldn’t quite get down to the beach, like during those ten minute breaks designed for snacks and bathrooms, there was one of those cool little towers on top, advantageously placed to give a peak at a beautiful ocean view or perhaps a sunrise or sunset … or so I thought.
As I first made my way up to the tower, never having been in such a one before, I could hardly wait to see the panoramic view. I topped the winding stairway, emerged from the access door, looked toward the ocean, and saw … (wait for it) … TREES!
Now I don’t know when that gorgeous beach house was built, and I don’t know when or by whom those trees were planted, but the ocean vista that I had anticipated was nowhere to be seen, cruelly obscured by Floridian flora.
Any rabid beach lover (and there are those such people) would probably just pull out the chainsaw and hack away at those trees, roaring much like the Queen of Hearts, “Off with their heads!” in order to reveal the hidden secrets of oceanic beauty.
But I fully confess that I’m a true tree lover at heart. It pains me when any tree is brought down, or as the more callous might say, “harvested.” Okay. Full disclosure. When my family built its new house last year on a wooded lot, we relocated the house footprint twice in order to accommodate old-growth trees that were acorns during the Spanish-American War. Okay. Fullest disclosure. I’ve even named some of my favorite trees – like Woodrow, the huge white oak which serves as the anchor end of several of our woodpiles (which is of course a row of wood = “Woodrow”). But before this gets too weird, I just wanted the reader to get a picture of how painful tree destruction can be for me. I simply love trees for all the right reasons, at least in my own mind. To me, trees are one of God’s greatest things.
But so is the ocean … and its panoramic vistas … currently obscured by an unintended barrier of trees.
I wonder if there are times in our lives when one of the great things that we love can prevent us from getting to an even greater thing. It may even be that one of those great things that we love hinders us in a way that we don’t even know. In youth ministry it can be that traditional trip that “we’ve always done” that is keeping us from trying a much more needed, much more important or meaningful event that would move the needle in the right direction. It might be that building policy that “protects” certain portions of our church building from those “unruly young people.” It might be that “debt-free” policy that bottlenecks important attempts at facility growth.
Sometimes the great things can even become sacred cows, which we may need to sacrifice in order to reach something better. Or as Bill Easum wrote, “Sacred cows make gourmet burgers.”
You know, as I stood there wishing for that incredible ocean view, I remembered that my family left town for a week while the bulldozers came to knock down the necessary trees so that we could build our new home. I asked the crew to pile the logs that came from those trees, that were acorns in the 1890s, so that I could with great respect saw and split them by hand to fuel the family fireplaces.
We were able to let those trees go – those great things – in order to find the greater thing God had in mind – in our case a cozy home with a close-knit family gathered around the glow and warmth of an evening fire.