Taking time out


I’ve just come back from a two week lay-off after a gall-bladder operation (word of advice: avoid gall stones if at all possible – ‘extremely painful’ is an understatement of the first order). Actually, I’ve been poorly for the last few months, and during this really frustrating period, I couldn’t do as much as I had been doing, and had to really pull back. In other words, I put in less hours. But guess what, I ended up probably doing more in that time, and being more productive than I had been in a long while.

During my recuperation, I realised why. I had begun to prioritise better. I physically couldn’t do what I had been doing, so some things had to go. I was spending more time on things that mattered, and working out the things that didn’t. I also began to re-learn how to relax and rest. It has been liberating.

And the main reason for this is that I learned this lesson: I am not God. Sounds obvious from a vicar. But in the midst of trying to ‘do ministry’ I had forgotten that I am just a human being – fallen, sinful, time-constrained, and in need of stopping from time to time. I had failed to remember that actually God doesn’t need me for his kingdom to grow. Wonderfully, we have the privilege of being part of his eternal plans, and he uses us; but I am not the centre of the universe. He is. The world continues to spin, God is in charge and he is the one who makes things happen, not me. It took me being out of the equation for a while for me to get this. Sometimes it takes illness for us to get the message, because we’re not going to listen otherwise.

So, while I’m very pleased to be on the way back to full health, I don’t want to waste what I’ve learnt. I don’t want to be spending all that time chasing my tail, trying to do everything, when God has got a handle on it. It’s his ministry, after all, not mine. Making the best use of the time might just involve taking time off to rest too.