Time to withdraw

October 3rd, 2016

Sometimes, you just need to walk away.

We all go through it. Those times feel like we've gone through a meat grinder or have been beaten with a sledgehammer until all that's left are shattered pieces. We're tired, mentally and physically. And spiritually. It could be due to trials and circumstance in our work, family or even at church. We're broken and we just don't know what to do.

Recently, Pete Wilson, founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tenn. announced he was stepping down. In his statement to the church he stated to be broken, tired, and leading on empty. I sat there during the early service at the Bellevue campus and listened. Many people, including my wife, were in tears. I was torn. Part of me thought, “But God, this man is someone I look up to! He speaks your word clearly to me each week. We have emailed a few times but never talked face-to-face, and this morning he greeted me, shaking my hand.” But then another part said, “Good for you, Pete! You know yourself better than anyone else. You've worked hard and serve so many people. You need to be you!”

I know of Pete. I've sat through many of his services and listened to him on the web. I've read a few of his books. But, I don't know Pete. I don't know his favorite places to eat, or his go-to mug for his morning coffee. I will never know what caused Pete to feel the way he does right now. What I do know is that God loves him and it is okay for him to walk away.

Sometimes, we all should just walk away for a time. We're designed for it. For one, God created the universe and took a day of rest. In Hebrew culture, the Sabbath was a day of rest and reflection, connecting with God and community. For many of us, we work full-time jobs, manage getting kids to and from practices or events, attempt to be social and have hobbies. We may get weekends off from work, but then there are house chores, yard work, time with friends and other tasks and events. When Monday rolls around, we're drained and dread work.

Let’s add to this our constant need for connection through our electronic devices. We simply have to share a picture of this item we see in a store because our friend will get a laugh. Or, we need to check our email every five minutes because someone at work is going to need us for something. Or, we just have to know how the Cubs did in the game today because this is “THE” year.

We're tired. Drained. Mentally and physically. After a while, we don't feel like going to work. We're short with a co-worker, or we take out work stress on our spouse and kids. Then, something happens. Anything. Loss of job. Family illness or other issue. Betrayed by a friend. We break. We have given so much, but our takes are empty. We hear the commercial from Southwest Airlines say “Wanna get away?” to which we scream “YES!!!” (out loud so it scares the dog).

You should know this: It's okay to walk away from a situation and walk to God.

Not only is it okay, it's biblical.

Take a look at Luke Chapter 5. Here, Luke tells us that Jesus healed a man with a skin disease. News of the miracle traveled fast and soon many people were searching out Jesus to help them. Before they could find him, Luke writes that “Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.” (Luke 5:16, CEB)

We see other times when Jesus withdrew from crowds or events, most notably at Gethsemane. In the days before his crucifixion, Jesus felt despair and anxiety about the coming situation. The night he was arrested, he withdrew to the garden to pray, to connect with God. Even with his last breath, a beaten, bloody and mangled Jesus prayed.

When our cars are on “E” we fill them with fuel. Our soul and body need to be filled as well. If we constantly give of ourselves, we'll run out of God’s fuel. If we're hyper-focused on the things around us, we'll grow tired. This leads to brokenness. We need a Sabbath.

I'm blessed to have a schedule that allows me time off from work and away from others on Fridays. I've been calling this my “unplugged” day, though I haven't been consistent recently. No phone (unless it's to play music), internet, television, or computer from the time I get up to the time my kids get home from school. It may only be a few hours, but it helps. I use this time to read, go for a walk, sit on my deck with a glass of sweet tea (because that is God’s beverage of choice, he told me), and just clear my mind. As I do these things, I often have conversations with God. As I said in a previous article, God does love walks in the garden during the cool of the day. This time helps me stay focused and refreshes me.

The hardest part of all of this is just admitting we are broken, that we are empty. It sounds like we are lost in sin or just weak and cannot handle life. Friends tell me that I just need to quote Philippians 4:13 more often. They are partly right. That section of scriptures, not just the one verse, reminds us that Paul went through a great deal of trials and successes. Paul says that he can do all things through the strength of God, and we use that statement to be brave. But if you look at Philippians 4:12, he is talking about all his trials and successes, and how God gave him the strength to endure everything. In times of need, in brokenness, God gave Paul the means to endure.

Moses. Joshua. David. Job. All were broken. They connected to God and amazing things happened.

So, I encourage you, take time. Away from phones and things that distract. Take time to walk, or sit, and talk to God. Withdraw from the craziness of modern-day life and get away with the only one who can put all the pieces together again. 

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