By Craig Wilson
Greetings My Fellow Sojourners!
I thought this week would be the perfect time to talk of our need for renewal and restoration in our lives to enable us to persevere for the long haul. Last week I talked about how I persistently pursued improving my distance running abilities and how I was successful in accomplishing that goal. As Paul Harvey would say, “And now for the rest of the story…”
My freshman year in college was a different story. As I worked to continue to improve that fall my times kept getting worse. I felt tired and sick all the time. I had actually noticed it during the summer, but tried to ignore things and run through it. Part of it was that I was scared to tell anyone what was happening. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able run and would lose my scholarship. I noticed my lymph glands in my groin area and under my arms were swollen and sore.
Hiding it didn’t help. It just made my college coach think I was slacking and didn’t care. By the time track season came I couldn’t hide it anymore and was sent to see the doctor. My entire lymph system was involved by now and the doctor scheduled a biopsy. He had run tests for mono and other more innocuous things prior to the biopsy and all came back negative so there was a serious concern that I had lymphoma or some sort of cancer.
The biopsy came back negative so there was some relief, but concern was still there as what caused the inflammation of my lymph system. The doctors decided that I stop running until my system returned to normal. That took 3 years!! My running career ended when I was 18. I realized too late that constantly pushing my body without relief caused it to breakdown instead of buildup.
You would have thought that would be enough to learn my lesson, but I can be a bit obtuse. Several years later I hit a similar wall in my professional life. I had worked too long and hard trying to be successful. Outwardly it appeared I was. I had an office in downtown Minneapolis with two windows overlooking the venerable, ivy covered Minneapolis Club. I mention the two windows because it represented the importance of the office. Sad, but true, I sacrificed so much for an office.
My family life suffered, I was miserable, I drank too much to medicate my feelings which led to greater depression and misery. I finally, as they say, let go and let God, and began a
new journey. It was my daughter Krista, then three, now 21, who really got me moving to a new paradigm for my work. Here’s a post I made about it in my strategic leadership studies class a few years ago.
Before the work of renewal can happen, we first need to honestly reflect on our situation. I was reading O’Neil’s book on the train ride into downtown Chicago. We’re here on a few days of fun and relaxation. As I read about the inability of executives and leaders to admit their vulnerabilities, I was taken back to my own burnout.
O’Neil stated how his two young daughters pleaded with him, “Don’t go, Daddy.” A similar moment began my journey to a new work life. Not long after I surrendered to God in 1994, and began seeking His will for my life, my daughter Krista, who was then 3, got up extra early one day. I was just getting ready to leave for the office. She asked, “You’re going to work, aren’t you?” I replied, “Yes, I am.” To which she asked, “That’s where you live, isn’t it?” That penetrated me to the core. Six months later, I was inspired to leave the firm and start a practice out of my home so that I could be there for my family.
After reading that passage, an article in USA Today caught my eye. It was about people who dress as super heroes at Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. We were there last February just before the Oscars. I remember seeing them in action. Not long after it started to rain, a cold rain. We were in a coffee shop nearby and saw Wonder Woman and Batman walk by under umbrellas. It struck me just how vulnerable they looked.
Realizing our own needs and just how vulnerable we are is the first step toward incorporating rest and renewal into our lives. If we don’t we’ll soon look like a superhero in a cold rain, rather pathetic and in need of warmth and comfort, and with all of our superhero powers washed away.
Even in this busy time – in fact more importantly in this busy time – we need incorporate renewal and restoration into our daily lives. Flora Wuellner, who counsels burnt out pastors, says that we need 3 types of ongoing Sabbaths (rests):
1. Hourly – We need tiny Sabbath moments – looking at a painting, closing our eyes and thinking about our favorite places, looking at a bird outside.
2. Daily – Doing something we love for one hour – Holly and I read a book aloud every night. Right now we’re reading The Lord of the Rings.
3. Weekly – Take one day a week to “rest”. She says it should be “relaxing, joyous, humanizing activities.” This could be a ball game, a day at the lake, whatever brings joy and true relaxation.
I will be the first to admit I’m not perfect with this, but it’s not about perfection, it’s about recharging. I will say this – I never want to go back to that place in my soul where I was 18 years ago. So I do want to keep the need to rest and renew in my sight and high on my to do list every day.
What’s one thing you can do to de-stress this week?
May You be at Peace!