Jibstay

Monday, July 16, 2007

Time Out?

Kids routinely need a time-out to calm themselves down, to get out of a combative mode, to remove stimuli that they cannot handle. Every parent has used a time-out with good results. A child goes into their room, maybe tearfully, but slowly settles down and re-enters family life with some new perspective and control.
Vacations are adult time-outs, when we step back from the relentless stress and pace of working life and try on a different pattern; travel somewhere, sleep in later, hike, swim, golf, read, or write. Sabbatical leaves are much more intentional time-outs for professionals who need to re-charge their interior lives by getting away for an extended period to study, research or reflect. I have benefitted from a sabbatcial leave in 2000 that changed my life. We got away to France where I began a long journey into the meaning of sacred space. And while the manuscript has been rejected by publishers, for very good reasons, the topic remains alive and vital in me. Now every other year I "bank" vacation from a previous year (with church leadership approval) so that we can return to France for longer periods than 3 or 4 weeks. I so anticipate this time out that I don't mind skipping a vacation one year so that I can get away longer the next.
Recently I corresponded witha church member who took a different time-out. They took a time-out from the church. The were a super-active couple, involved in many areas in the life of their church. They were turned to for all sorts of tasks and led well. But slowly, after years, church turned from passion into work and obligation. They began to resent the intrusion of project tasks into their Sunday time. Sabbath rest turned into an hour of worship bracketed with committee meetings before and after worship. So they left the church for a year. They told their pastor they needed a time out and he agreed, though not without some reluctance, to let them go with blessing. After a year away, visiting other churches in their community and sleeping in on some select Sunday mornings, they decided it was time to return to their church, their friends, their family, their community. They told me that church is different for them now that they gained some new perspective from their time-out. I wonder if we pastors don't need to be more creative when caring for burned out church members, encouraging them to back away, even take a time-out?

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