This week I received an email that began, "I know you must be crazy with Holy Week...." The writer, of course, was referring to the phenomenon of church leaders fried by the frenzied business of leading a church during Easter. But the phrase stayed near to me, even as I succumbed to the relentless demands I impose on myself that insist I must do it right–especially this week.
Perhaps if Holy Week was the only week of the year where I allowed this to happen, I'd be okay. But the sad reality is that I've been living out of my own strength for the past several weeks. So when asked if I'm crazy with Holy Week, my honest answer is, "No, I'm crazy with life." I'm crazy with the demands of my family, my side projects, and my ministry. I'm crazy with the ebb and flow of people's whims and needs that is inherent in leadership. But I'm mostly crazy because I've let those things edge out my intentional, quiet, set-apart time with God.
Every one of us has read about it and probably advised others against it. But when your business is the God business, it's deceptively simple to multi-task God–to call prayers on the run, or teaching prep time, or conversations with other leaders "God time." And yet I needed to reap the dried-up, rotten fruit of it myself to really know how impossible it is to lead well without it. Having become aware of my mistake, here's what I'm doing to get back on track with intentional God time:
Acknowledge that it's not about time. Most leaders are leaders because they are capable, called and confident. They can solve problems; they can multitask; they can find creative solutions to myriad obstacles. If I can discipline myself to handle multiple people and projects while raising children, I can discipline myself to spend intentional time with God. If I can spend time on Facebook, in front of the TV, putting on makeup or even checking email, then I can find time with God–but I must make the time. If there is anything that won't just "happen," it's intentional time with God. I need to make it a priority, or it doesn't happen.
Confess. A week ago I sat with a fellow leader. I confessed how easy it is for me to encourage others in their time with the Lord and never actually say how I'm doing with it. Even as the words came out of my mouth I realized I was avoiding the opportunity to get honest! I turned to my friend and said, "I'm not spending time with God like I need to. It's affecting the way I do ministry." Speaking the truth hurt, but in the presence of a safe friend it brought to light what I was trying to hide in the shadows.
Get Specific. A week passed and I still didn't really do anything about my lack of God time. I kept moving at breakneck speed, hurtling myself into Holy Week while continuing to fray at my soul seams. I was impatient at home, sharp at work and lackluster in my creativity and ideas–places where I usually excel. And still I did nothing about finding time with God. Finally, at the end of myself, I had another honest conversation with a friend. This time, the conversation ended with a specific plan, that we would both commit to spending an hour a day in intentional rest with God to hear and receive from Him–and that we would report back to one another in a week's time. Like a workout partner, the accountability and specificity will be enough to draw me right back where I need to be, earnestly seeking God with an undivided heart–and letting the rest of my leadership flow from there.
Have you ever struggled to set apart time with God? What specific ways to do you create space for him?
Nicole Unice has decided to accept her status as a wrestler with God. Between raising her kids and working in Family and Student Ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, VA, Nicole likes to write and teach on the intersection of God's word and modern life. Her first book, The Divine Pursuit, A Study of Jonah, released in Fall 2010. You can find her blogging at The Stubborn Servant.