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Surfing the tension between rest & ministry

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Karen and I just returned from a long trip away from home. We lived in hotels, out of suitcases, with little private space. It was a great trip in so many ways, but I felt like my inner man suffered some insofar as I didn’t meet God in my usual way while were gone.    People talk abou…
By Seth Barnes
surfingKaren and I just returned from a long trip away from home. We lived in hotels, out of suitcases, with little private space. It was a great trip in so many ways, but I felt like my inner man suffered some insofar as I didn’t meet God in my usual way while were gone. 
 
People talk about finding balance in life. I’m not sure what that looks like. It conjures up an image of a tightrope walker carefully moving across a wire.
 
My life doesn’t feel like that. My life feels more like a wave that I’m surfing that curls behind me. I can’t see it, but it’s carrying me forward, and often feels out of control. It might be huge and crash down on me at any moment. And if it does, I’ll gulp great mouthfuls of salt water while I try to come up for air. But when I get my head above water, I’ll live to surf another wave.
 
The first passage of Scripture my eyes fell one jetlagged morning strummed chords inside me that had been silent too long. Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:30).
 
I’d never seen the fact that this was the first thing Jesus said to his disciples after he debriefed them. His disciples were tired and hungry. It says that there were so many people crashing their debrief that they got in a boat just to go looking for a quiet place.
 
But the crowds went on ahead and met them as they landed. Ministry life can be like that – you may be worn out and hungry, but still feel the crush of the crowd. And there you are surfing again.
 
What do you do? I don’t read the word “grouchy” in Scripture, but that’s what they must have felt. Still, Jesus and the disciples set their own needs aside in order to minister one more time. Compassion motivated them more than hunger.
 
But after teaching and feeding them, Jesus sent both the crowds and the disciples away so he could spend time talking and listening to the Father. (Mark 6:45-46)
 
Jesus showed us how to surf the tension between rest and ministry. He set aside his own needs temporarily, but not indefinitely. His body needed food to keep going and so did his spirit.
 
I watch so many ministry people get chewed up by big waves as they attend to the needs of the crowds around them. They suck in the salt water, feel like they’re going to drown, and wind up gasping on the beach – burned out.
 
After a trip like the one we just finished, there’s often a gnawing hunger in my spirit. I need to pay attention to it and send the crowds away so I can converse with my heavenly Father. It’s a wave I’m still learning to surf.
 
How about you?

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