Downtime

By Michael Temple

Photo by Dreamstime

It’s like sending a wooden bucket down the mouth of a stone-encircled water well, listening for the little splash as it lands, and only hearing a dusty “thud.”
 
Dry. Spent. Used up. Empty!
 
It doesn’t happen very often, but I can think of a number of times when I felt as hollow and vacant as an old well that’s dry and out of commission. I’ve never felt suicidal or despondent, but I have (from time to time) felt incredibly “tapped out,” like I had no more to give. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have more…it just wasn’t there!
 
I’ve gone through a variety of methods to try and cope during the few times that I’ve visited this barren place in life. Here’s a short list:

1. I told myself that I would be alright, and kept “slogging” away at whatever I was doing. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it didn’t work, and even exacerbated the situation.

2. I claimed God’s promises for peace while attempting to carry on with my busy life. I’m not doubting my Creator or the pledges that are laid out in the Bible about “peace,” “assurance,” and “striving,” but I found no respite by merely claiming any of these for my own.

3. I tried to get excited about something new. I’m a master at chasing “shiny objects,” but using this method to cope just caused me further stress and exhaustion.

I’ve only found one way to deal with this kind of situation. It sounds so simple that one might be tempted to pass it off as no big deal, but it’s the only thing that has ever taken me from dry and empty to “back in the game.”
 
One word…REST.
 
I’m not a counselor, and I don’t hold a degree in psychology, but rest is the only formula that has ever worked for me. 
 
I’m not talking about a nap, a vacation, or a Sabbath rest. All of these are wonderful, but a nap isn’t long enough, vacations often involve more work than actual rest, and because I’m a pastor, a Sabbath day is usually filled with increased activity for me and my family.
 
What I’m referring to here is a “be still and know that I am God” kind of rest that takes more than a few minutes, but rarely lasts more than three or four days. I’ve discovered that if I’m intentional about this that it can really help with periodic feelings of exhaustion. Here is a sampling of some of the things I do during these “rest” days:
 
  1. I get up when God wakes me up. I don’t even look at the clock. 
 
  2. I go to bed when I feel tired (even if that means multiple times a day), and I spend time just being what God created me to be…me. 
 
  3. I turn off the phone. If there is an emergency or something pressing that needs my attention, the caller can leave a voice mail for me and I can take care of business if it’s necessary. It’s rarely necessary.
 
  4. I cook in the kitchen. (I enjoy cooking and baking, so this is relaxing for me).
 
  5. I play my guitar.  (I just sit and play whatever I feel like playing…and I don’t usually sing. Those who play an instrument will probably understand this type of “therapy”).
 
  6. I spend time with my family. (I always spend time with them, but there’s usually a “purpose” to what we are doing, where we’re going, and what we’re planning). On these days there isn’t.
 
  7. I call an old friend. (Sometimes life gets so busy that I just don’t call my friends to see how they are doing, and to talk about old memories. It has become increasingly important for me to do that).
 
  8. I go for a drive. (I don’t worry about where I’m going, but I DO make sure I have a full tank of gas when I’m heading out).
 
  9. I might walk in our back woods and talk to God alone…or I might not.
 
10. I don’t check Facebook, e-mails, or the Internet. It will be there when I get back.
 
I let life “happen,” rather than try to make things happen. I take a few days to “just be,” and rest in the knowledge that my Creator loves me, wants me to be healthy, and wants to save me for eternity.
 
The result? I return to work rested, with renewed vigor, and ready to meet the challenges of work and daily living.
 
This works for me. It’s a simple and yet powerful way to put “fuel” back in my tank when nothing else seems to help.  I’m not superman, and God doesn’t expect me to be. 
 
Rest.  It’s a rewarding (and under-rated) way to deal with what life throws at me.