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Free Yourself to Pause and Take a Break

Surrender to God’s desire to shape your soul
Free Yourself to Pause and Take a Break

The Internet is saturated with information for self-improvement and practical tools and techniques to become a better you. The business sections of bookstores include titles which inform leaders and executives about management skills, vision casting, and team development. Christian markets normally offer the same counsel sprinkled with a few heartfelt stories and accommodating Scriptures. As I grow as a leader, I am convinced that we do not need more tools and techniques about leadership. What we actually need is to humbly, lovingly, consistently, and intentionally engage the hearts and souls of those God has called to leadership.

We need to regularly gift our leaders with the time and space that is needed to pause, rest, reflect, and be present with the Lord without distraction. For to lead well requires regular submission and a humble surrender to God. In his book A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal writes, “The first order of responsibility for spiritual leaders [is] to reflect the heart of God to the people around them…Leaders whose hearts and lives turn out as divine masterpieces help those who are in their sphere of influence become more aware of who God is, understand his engagement with the world, and know how they can participate more fully in his mission of building the kingdom.” Leaders who desire to influence others with integrity over an extended period of time regularly practice surrendering their hearts to God by resting to contemplate long enough to allow themselves to be changed by him. In the quiet moments, God shapes every aspect of our existence as his servants.

He does this by reminding us of his power, while strengthening and using us even in our weaknesses. Because of his supreme power, and not the strength of our efforts, efficiency, giftedness, talents, or those of our team, we can take rest. In the beginning when God spoke his masterpiece into existence, he looked around at the end of the sixth day and acknowledged its perfection. He essentially said, “I have done a great work.” On the seventh day, God finished the work and he rested. From the beginning of time, God himself modeled for us the rhythm of work, appreciating and gaining pleasure from our work, and then resting regularly so that we can go out and work again. For the nature of work—the ability to create, cultivate, grow, and lead— is a part of our divine calling. Just as we are called to work, we are also called to a weekly day’s rest, or Sabbath keeping, acknowledging our human limitations so as not to burn ourselves out, hinder our earthly relationships, or make shameful attempts to usurp God’s authority.

In addition to weekly Sabbath keeping, God has given us the gift of sleep. Physical sleep is definitely something to value, and our souls also long for spiritual rest. The Psalmist wrote, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he [that is, God] grants sleep to those he loves (Psalm 127:2 (NIV)).” As leaders, there are times when we are under intense stress and the weight of our responsibility seems unbearable. It is during those times when we are tempted to work harder, rise earlier, or stay up later even after we have put in an honest day’s work. This passage reminds us that these actions are inappropriate—and in some cases sinful—responses, for our moments of greatest need give us opportunities to trust God all the more and must therefore become our moments of greatest surrender.

God has given us Sabbath just as he has given us sleep. Yet sometimes we go to bed and then awake only to find that our souls are still weary. A weary soul is an indicator that we have a poor view of God, our love for him has grown cold, we have an inaccurate or inflated view of ourselves, or we have brokenness and unconfessed sin in our relationships. Either way, we are called to confront these issues and come to God with our restlessness. “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).” In addition to physical rest for our bodies, God himself provides rest for our souls.

If we believe that God cares about our whole person, and that he is concerned about our physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational well-being, then why do we so often forgo the opportunities we have to take Sabbaths and sleep, or to rest and retreat? As least part of the reason we do not pause to take breaks is fear and a false sense of control.

This is particularly a concern for women who are wearing the hats of mentor, wife, teacher, working woman, servant, mom, and student. Most of the time there is a general understanding, though not an acceptance, that we cannot do everything that we want done in a given day, at least not to our standard of perfection. We defeat ourselves while pondering questions like Will they think that I am unprofessional if I take sick days from the office and don’t check email on the days I am actually sick? What if I am not “on” 24 hours at home? Will my husband look for satisfaction someplace else? What will happen to my kids if I am not with them? Does it make me a poor mother if I verbalize that I actually need a break? Is taking time for myself a selfish act? Is taking a retreat a luxury? What would other people think if…? What if I am not in charge?

Pride is at the root of each of these questions. Proverbs 16:18 reads, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” It is the pride of life that makes us physically sick, weary, and worn.

In this world we carry too much weight on our shoulders, and its weight that God has promised to carry for us if we allow him. True freedom comes from total surrender, embracing all of who God is and all of who we are in him. Peter Scazzero wrote, “The essence of being in God’s image is our ability, like God, to stop. We imitate God by stopping our work and resting.” So don’t worry. “My soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him (Psalm 62:5, NIV).”

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a writer, inspirational speaker, leadership and mentoring trainer, and human trafficking advocate. She received her M.A. in Christian Leadership from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte) in May 2014, with concentrations in prayer and fasting, racial reconciliation, and biblical justice. Natasha has over fifteen years of experience leading and mentoring in personal, professional, and church settings. Connect with Natasha through her official website, blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

December04, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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