Time is such an interesting thing – it is for some an enemy and for others it is a friend. Gordon MacDonlad in his book Building Below the Waterline writes about time and Spiritual Leaders. He specifically writes about the down time of leaders which is of utmost importance because for spiritual leaders work and demands upon us seem to expand to fit all the time that we possess.
This then causes MacDonald to ask this question: What are some of the necessary nonwork times each of us needs? MacDonald talks about four different times and I thought we would take time to look at these four from pages 88 – 92.
MacDonald writes about how he regularly builds into his life time to be alone whether it is a day alone to walk, sit, or paddle a canoe on a wilderness river. He writes about how important it is for him to have alone time. He writes, In the alone times, my mind and inner spirit become once again a fountain of ideas and possibilities. I am able to catalog the issues with which I am personally struggling, whether they are matters of faith, job, or relationship.
He also adds that family time actually fits into his alone-time. He considers time alone with his wife to talk and share as part of this time. He considers meal time with his family as well as part of that alone-time because he knew that he could be alone with his family at meal time.
For me personally – I need my alone time where it is just me and my thoughts. For me I get this a couple of places. One is at my study at the church – most of the time I am the only one in the church and it leaves me alone and with my thoughts and God. I relish this time especially during hard weeks and I can get away to the study to reflect on the struggles and on God. When it comes to family – I have time each morning before I go to the study that I sit and talk and share with my wife – I cherish this time. I also love the fact that we eat at the dinner table each night as a family – we talk share and laugh while we eat.
Downtimes are those times that come after we have put a high energy out or an intense period of ministry and interacting with people by incessant conversations, decision-making, and advice giving. He also mentions that we all have season where we have carried people along spiritually and then those things are not there anymore and our minds and spirits need a break. Downtimes are those times when we feel down and drained and need a break. He writes that these times come and we need to make sure we schedule pauses in life after them because they are essential for the mind and emotions as a pause is for a person who engages in heavy physical labor.
Anyone who has been in ministry any period of time knows of the downtimes. For me – this is why I take Monday’s off and rest. After stressful weekends of ministry I need the rest. I will also after a period of long ministry without really a break that I will schedule several days where I just get away from ministry by hunting or fishing or going to a movie with my wife.
MacDonald write about this: Sunday is no Sabbath for a Pastor, or for many in the lay leadership of large congregations….it is a time that amny of us in ministry grow more serious about the genius of the Sabbath experience. I see Sabbath-time as a more deliberately planned piece of time for silence, reflection, spiritual discovery, and the joyful recounting of past achievements and activities. Sabbath- time is definitely not a time for catching up on household chores, exhausting recreation, or parties. Sabbath-time is retreat, withdrawal. In it, one worships, meditates, and seeks a filled inner spirit. At its conclusion, one is refreshed.
This for me is the weakest of these areas. I would say my trip to the Stick conference was a Sabbath-time for me but beyond this I have not had one in quite some time. I know I need it but fail to schedule it and in it I fail to be as refreshed as I should be.
Growth-time as MacDonald describes it a time when he exercises his body and it is also a time when he exercises his mind. He tries to learn about new things by reading about them and gain new information. He also talks about gaining a new hobby in his mid-life and for him it is photography, another friend of his it is bird watching, and another it is antique clock repair. He writes about growth-time also meaning taking on challenges that stretch one’s imagination.
This is an area where I do some reading on areas that are outside of the norm for me. I cannot say that I am at a point where I need to take up a new hobby as I love the ones I have and my son and daughter at this point keep me quite active.
So these are the time areas that MacDonlad see as important and quite frankly I see these nonwork times as vitally important in the lives of ministers especially but really for all of us.
What do you think about these four times and which one do you do the best at and which one do you need the most work on?
This post is a part of the blogging on the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten . We are sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters, which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together. I pray your are encouraged by the blogs.