In part I of this conversation, I mentioned Jim Loehr. He was a performance psychologist who evaluated top-ranked tennis players in an effort to determine what made those who held the highest world rankings better than their lower-ranked competitors. What did they do as they played tennis that made them superior players in a highly competitive sport?
Loehr discovered that the strokes and techniques of all the players were infuriatingly similar. But eventually, he noticed that the difference lay in what the players did between points. Top performers, Loehr discovered, knew when to work hard and when to rest. Their strength lay not in the perfection of their strokes or their level of effort, but rather, in their ability to recover. The top tennis players, Loehr discovered, found rituals (the way they walked, breathing patterns, self-talk) that actually lowered their heart beat, calming them, and, in effect, allowing them to rest both physically and mentally between points. And the rest and recovery, even in the thirty to ninety seconds between points in a tennis game, is what made all the difference.
Loehr and Schwartz took what they learned from sports performance and created a "Corporate Athlete" system for improving performance on the job and in all areas of life, which is detailed in their book, The Power of Full Engagement.
Jesus himself modeled this pattern. He would engage fully in ministry of teaching, healing and so on. But then, he would take time to rest, and he invited his followers to do the same.
In Mark's gospel, we read that Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to do ministry - to heal and teach. They return, full of excitement about how effectively they were able to minister.
Many of us might say, "Great job! Keep going, don't lose momentum, strike while the iron is hot! Get back out there and win more souls!"
But Jesus doesn't do that. "The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ?Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest'" (Mark 6:30).
In other words, after the disciples had spent several days fully engaged in ministry, Jesus tells them to disengage, to rest.
In another passage, Jesus invites his followers: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest" (Matthew 11:28, The Message).