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New Year’s Resolution: Get off the Treadmill and onto the Path

We are once again at the time of the year when we reflect on the past year and look ahead towards the next.

Reflection brings clarity.

Reflection brings conviction.

Reflection can bring new commitments.

Let me reflect on one thing I’ve learned over the past year and share a commitment I’m making for the next year.

I was privileged to be able to take a 9-week sabbatical this past summer after 27 years of ministry. It was one of the most important things I’ve ever experienced in my ministry.

Side note: Here are a few random bits of advice if you are blessed to take a sabbatical.

1. Do whatever you need to do to properly care for your soul. I was advised to stay home, leave home, travel, do nothing, do something, write a book, don’t write a book, etc., etc., etc. I ended up traveling around the country and speaking a few times. I went to 18 different states. Each trip was planned for a special purpose and with special people. My wife and I traveled to the Northwest to be mentored by someone I deeply respect. My entire family took a 3-week road-trip to see family in the Midwest. My sons and I spent a week in the mountains at cross-country camp. I spent a week by myself on the beach in Southern California. My wife, two daughters, and I took a road trip to Indiana. I wouldn’t trade a moment of my sabbatical. I owned it and the reward was renewing.

2. Budget to spend time being mentored by someone you respect in ministry. I paid a renowned author and leader for a couple of days of mentoring. It was an unbelievable blessing and set the tone for the rest of my sabbatical.

3. Budget for your sabbatical. Make sure you have enough money to do what you need to do and for your church to cover your absence.

4. Disconnect from work in every way. For 9 weeks I didn’t take calls, texts, or emails from my staff or from church members. A few people snuck through the “firewall” early on–which only served to remind me of why I needed a break–but…eventually…people gave me the much-needed space I needed to rest, reflect, and be renewed.

5. Ask the Lord to speak to you and then listen for His reply.

I did this and very clearly heard Him say (through sermons, Scripture, wisdom from friends, songs, and through nature), “Be still and know that I am God.”

Back to the point of this post…

To me, going on sabbatical and then coming off sabbatical, felt like stepping off the belt of a fast-moving treadmill, but remaining on the treadmill, and then trying to step back onto the racing belt.

If you’ve ever trained on a treadmill you’ve probably experienced what I’m referring to. You’re running at a fast pace–trying to reach a time or distance goal–but your phone rings, or buzzes, or your neighbor on the next treadmill over wants to chat and you don’t want to fall and be catapulted into the stack of free weights behind you, so you lift yourself off of the fast-moving belt and rest your feet on either side of the belt while the belt keeps turning. When you’re done with your “important” call or text you may have done what I’ve done in the past with varying levels of success: try to get back on the treadmill while the belt is still turning so as not to pause your workout and have to start the clock all over again.

Most of the times this works, but not always, and I don’t recommend it…ever!

Getting off the “treadmill” for my sabbatical was refreshing.

Getting back on the “treadmill” after my sabbatical was stupid and I don’t recommend it!

Life is busy for most of us. It’s just how it is. But, the pace at which I was living before my sabbatical was unsustainable. Even so, shortly after coming off my sabbatical I realized I was getting back onto that racing treadmill again and it scared me.

I know it’s unsustainable.

It scared me with how easily I could forget what God had clearly spoken to me over my time away: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Based on my actions, as I got back to work in ministry, it was as if I’d really heard the Lord say, “You better get busy because I can’t do this without you.”

Activity does not equal vitality.

I want my ministry to His church and His people and His world to be vital and only and all about the Lord and His will for my life, so I’m getting off the treadmill and getting on the path.

A path is the best metaphor there is for how–and where–we should invest our time and energy as we live this side of Heaven.

Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Jeremiah 6:16

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.

Here are some important truths about a path in comparison to a treadmill and reasons why a path is a much better choice than a treadmill.

Paths vs. Treadmills

Treadmills are, by nature, exhausting.

Paths are, by nature, refreshing (or they should be) because they are generally in nature.

Treadmills take you nowhere.

Paths take you somewhere.

Treadmills can only accommodate one person.

Paths can accommodate as many as necessary for the journey.

Treadmills are designed to move you along at a pre-determined pace.

Paths are enjoyed at a pace of your choosing.

Treadmills cost money to use (either through a gym membership or through purchase).

Paths are free.

Technology is required for treadmills to work properly.

Paths require no technology.

Treadmills run you.

We run paths.

Well, that’s enough for now. I think it’s time for a walk. It’s something I’m now committed to.

Can you think of any other differences between treadmills and paths that clarify the importance of getting off the “treadmill”? If so, share them in the comments section.

©2017 Arron Chambers




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