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Surfing the tension between rest & ministry

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
By Seth Barnes
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 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?

Comments (15)

  • On a wave currently. Went through the spin cycle already. Paddling out… waiting for the GNARLY one haha.

    I find that I have loads of energy right now. I guestimate I will have time for rest somewhere in my late 30’s lol!

  • I can’t do this, no matter how much I try. To continue the metaphor, not only do I see the wave I’m riding, but I can see the next 5 waves in my mind, and there’s an infinite number of waves out there with no one riding! It’s tough to stop riding… my wife feels the same way, so there’s no one to tell me to stop.
    Taking a rest is hard to do, Seth!

  • The problem with “riding waves” is that they all end up on the same flippin shore. I want to move out beyond the wake and find a distant uncharted shore, a place that no one has navigated yet. Right now it feels as if I’m paddling like hell…

  • So glad I’m not the only one who feels like following him is like riding a gi-normous wave that could hurtle me to the bottom at any moment! But its like that line from the Chronicles of Narnia: no one ever said he was a tame lion, but he is Good! …or something along those lines 🙂

  • I just feel like a beached whale. Gasping hopelessly on the beach. Needing someone to push me back into the water. I am burnt-out on church and ministry currently. Need prayer to get me back out there surfing for Christ. Feels like I keep getting caught in a rip current. I get sucked out to sea in endless rapid cycles, then feel disoriented and exhausted then find myself swimming counter to find my bearing only to be thrown back onto to the beach. Pray for me fellow Christ surfers. Thank You!

  • Powerful metaphor Seth, that is exactly how I feel. I am gulping water like crazy and my head is up enough to see like Michael umpteen other waves ahead and to the side all converging in. I real just want to float to the bottom and just stay there at least I would have some peace…we all know that is not an option. You mentioned balance and I understand it in theory but have no idea how to get there. I was thinking about the hymn “turn your eyes upon Jesus” as it says, “look full in His wonderful face and the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace” we really have to fight to keep our focus on Jesus because it is so easy to allow the work to crowd out our view of Him. I remind myself as well that Jesus said “without me you can do nothing” if I am not focused on him, really focused on him in all my doings, my much doing adds up to a whole lot of “nothing”. I don’t want to be a dried up branch. I pray we all come to the place of really seeing Jesus and then resting in Him.

  • I like the example you used in Mark 6. The disciples didn’t figure out on their own what “balance” looked like. They followed Jesus’ lead. My challenge is to hear His Voice and when He says, “rest” to rest. When He is out to stretch me and have me depend on His strength when I feel I can’t go on, to obey and find His strength for me and His compassion for others. I’ll be learning this the rest of my days!

  • Your blog made me think of the truth “My soul finds rest in God alone”. It amazes me to think that God can be just as glorified through us being obedient to resting as he is with us being faithful in minsitry. I think for some reason, we as Christians focus so much on constantly doing, that we forget the significance of rest. When I get caught up in a constant cylce of riding just the waves of ministry, with no waves of rest it becomes difficult to even hear His voice and know His heart. God seems to do his greatest work after riding that wave of rest. I pray God helps me to always remember and follow the example of Jesus in Mark 6.

  • Ha… My whole World Race blog was subtitled “Riding the Wave…” I think that’s what Kingdom living is… getting yourself into something that’s too big for you and letting God teach you how to stand on top of it all…

  • Music is all the sweeter for the rests in it.

    It’s not hard to maintain momentum and it becomes scarey to stop momentum from pushing you on. Stopping is a huge risk that you may struggle to keep that board afloat. Service is one thing, but feeling like you have to go on because it all depends on you is not good. God doesn’t call for that kind of martyr.

    Get off the board, get out of the water and you’ll find air back in your lungs and fresh strength in those legs for standing on the board to ride the next wave. Who knows, it may be the biggest wave yet.

  • I started surfing last winter and God has taught me much about waiting. Several waves will reveal themselves, but not all waves are worth taking off on. If you attempt to take off on every wave then you will find yourself exhausted, so exhausted you will most likely miss the perfect wave when it does come. Blessings as you discern the waves.

  • Thanks for this Seth. I spent too many years with spiritual myopia with respect to the “resting” elements of our Kingdom journey. I have been changing that. Exhausting yourself for Jesus is not Biblical and the testimonies and biographies I used to read about people like the missionary David Brainerd who died before he was 30… didn’t help. The Protestant work ethic is not the same thing as being led. I’m finally learning that…

  • Wow – you hit a chord here with many folks. I’ve been finding it hard to give myself permission to “shut down”. It’s like I think that if I’m not praying/seeking/learning/serving with great urgency – I’m not doing my “job”. what’s funny is this urgency often robs me of the joy that should come.

    This verse speaks well to me today and gives me permission to be myself and rest a bit at the feet of Jesus – riding this wave out with a peaceful, non-urgent heart! Thank you

  • Thank you for this Seth. This is something I have always struggled to make time for and eventually feel worn out or tired. It’s such a good reminder to find one on one time with The Father to be renewed and refreshed.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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