When is it time to push, and when is it time to rest? The New Year is a time when our culture tells us to push on with those new resolutions, but winter is a time our bodies may want to slow down and, if not hibernate, at least sleep more.
For church leaders, Lent and Easter come inexorably, and preparations must be made. Preachers must have something to say on Sunday, and pastoral needs don’t slow down just because it’s winter. Beyond the weekly and yearly cycle, leaders also need to think about the big picture.
However, this winter I suggest you pay some attention to your own body’s rhythms, in addition to the pressures of ministry. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re full, stop. Remember the words of the psalmist, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” (Ps. 127:2, NRSV) One year I used a devotional guide where I read that verse every day. It was a good reminder that everything was not up to me.
What are your real sleep needs? I’ve always had a low tolerance for sleep deprivation, which for years I viewed as a curse. If only I needed less sleep, I thought. With new research on the importance of sleep for the brain, I’m beginning to think it’s a blessing.
Exhausted leaders don’t make good decisions. They don’t bring their best creative thinking to their work. They get cranky with other people. If you want to do your best work, try resting more. You may find you actually get more done.
Here are some questions to consider:
• How much sleep are you getting?
• What do you do when you get too tired? (Get irritable, indecisive, eat too much…)
• How might you plan your creative or hardest work for the time when you have the most energy?
• How do you think about rest?
• How did your family of origin view rest?