It wasn’t a great way to start the work week. I went to retrieve the coffee carafe from the dishwasher only to find the glass had broken. The placement of the break wouldn’t have negatively impacted the ability of the carafe to hold the volume of desired liquid. The concern, however, was the potential negative effect of the application of additional heat. Pouring out of the coffee pot without causing harm, due to misdirected and unrestrained leakage was also a slight gamble.
It had been a busy weekend with additional travel, so not having coffee wasn’t even a consideration. I pulled out my percolator that I have as a backup to use on the gas range if the power goes out. I’m not as familiar with this alternate prep method, and I let it perk too long. I normally drink my coffee black, but this cup was a TAD strong. I deemed it consumable with a little fixing up, so cream and hot chocolate powder were added making a lovely “in a pinch” mocha.
Unrealistic Expectations and Burnout
As I pondered the events, there seemed to be a spiritual application. It dawned on me, post coffee consumption, that this is a picture of how Christians, can impact the world around them. Unfortunately, sometimes we still try to do all the things we’ve done before even though we are broken. Especially for those serving in leadership roles in churches or other ministries, there is an illusion that we have enough capacity to just keep going. I’m not really sure where this line of thought took root, but it is nefarious. Not only is it an outrageous and unrealistic expectation, it can create long-term consequences leading to burn-out or even an exit from ministry altogether.
In contrast to the damaging thought pattern, I can point to numerous passages where Jesus found it necessary to pull away and refresh. He modeled not being “on” all the time. He did what He saw His Father doing (Genesis 2:2; John 5:19-20). God the Father modeled and prescribed rest. He did so because of our need for rest.
Rest is Modeled and Prescribed
In our ministry at Blue Fire Legacy, we frequently teach on taking a Sabbath or longer times of rest. Sometimes, it is necessary to look at what sabbaticals are, and what they are not, with clients. Pushing ourselves past the point of our natural limitations is damaging for us and those around us. Mark and I teach on these subjects because we have experienced the fatigue of over extending and living in opposition to God’s instructions. We can fall into this trap because we are attempting to meet the expectations of various individuals, or out of a desire to receive accolades, recognition, and the praise of man. We’ve been there, but we’ve also learned how to minister from a place of rest.
Remember the coffee pot? It’s been around a long time. All the pulling out and pushing back in probably created a stress fracture that the heat and pressure of the dishwasher exploited.
We can experience the same phenomenon. If we’re overly pressed for time to complete routine tasks and stressed, the next heat point (conflict or difference of opinion) or pressure (demands or expectations to get one more thing done) can cause us to break. In those moments, we are usually unable to refrain from speaking or acting harshly towards another.
Even if we pull ourselves back together, somewhat, there is still a noticeable chip or break point. It is important to pull away for a time, check our heart condition, and be healed or restored by the Lord before coming back into a place of service on a larger scale. If we remain in service while damaged, we may unintentionally cut or burn someone around us as we pour out.
Solitude and Prayer
Jesus pulled away to find solitude and pray. In some translations, Luke 5:16 includes the word “frequently” or “often”. This indicates it was not a sporadic event. Let’s look at this in context.
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:12-16 NIV)
Jesus pulled away as a regular practice even while engaging in active ministry. Living life and ministering from a place of rest, permits better results than running ourselves into the ground in an attempt to earn a time of rest. I encourage you to look at how you approach ministry and life, and make the necessary changes so that you can operate out of rest in Him. It’s okay to stop pouring out of the broken carafe for a time of rest and healing with the Lord.
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