An Indispensable Day
As part of my job description I am required a few times a year to take one full day out of the office away from email, phone calls, and sermon prep, and spend it with the Lord. This is yet one more reason I love my job! Having enjoyed a particularly beneficial day with the Lord this last week, I want to share two thoughts that I hope will motivate you to consider taking just such a day in the near future... even if that means taking it on your own time (very few jobs include this on the Job Description, even at a church!)... even if it means skipping church one Sunday (yes, it's that important!)... or conversely, even if it means taking a vacation day to watch the kids so your spouse can have a day with the Lord. Yes, it will cost you. Any day away from work will cost us. But if spent well, such a day will reap long lasting benefits that far outweigh the cost. Let me prove it to you. While there are many benefits to taking a day with the Lord, two stand out supreme...
1) Days with the Lord drive rather than hinder productivity. On the surface of it, a day unplugged from the Internet, the phone, and all work-related tasks seems like a day of lost productivity. You may in fact be wondering, “Why exactly should my pastor get paid for a day where he does no actual ministry work?” But in reality those eight hours spent unplugged from the demands of task and ministry lead to a long term gain in productivity that far outweighs the cost of one lost day. In pastoral ministry as in every demanding career, urgent tasks exceed available time. We cannot complete all that the church desires us to do. And so, the most significant question I must ask myself on any given day is, “What is most important?” Whose need will I meet, and who will I disappoint? There is not a day that goes by that I will not disappoint someone. Success is choosing the right people to disappoint! Success is saying Yes to the right things and No to all else. And this leads to the indispensability of days with the Lord. When my head is buried in the urgent, often overwhelming tasks of a day at the office, it is nearly impossible for me to rise above the flood and see what is most important. Busyness clouds perspective. Only by stepping out of the flood of tasks and demands, if only for a day, can I gain perspective to see what God’s priorities are for my personal and professional life. A day with the Lord clarifies my focus so that I can spend all subsequent days doing that which is most important. So while I do lose eight hours of productive work, I gain six weeks of far more strategic productivity. The cost is so minimal compared to the gain! How can I afford not to take a day with the Lord? This is true no matter your profession. Success in any endeavor requires clarity of purpose and priority, and such clarity is only available to those who unplug long enough to rise above the flood of urgent tasks, problems, and demands. A day with the Lord will benefit you as a parent, a spouse, an office manager, a teacher, a researcher, a lawyer. An unplugged, unhurried day in prayer, reading, and reflection will empower you to be more strategic, creative, and effective for weeks and months to come. The cost is small compared to the benefit!
2) Days with the Lord remind us that we are not as important as we think we are. As I mentioned, my job requires me to take one day every six weeks with the Lord… one blessed day unplugged from all tasks, meetings, and formal responsibilities. Surely, of all my job responsibilities, this is the one that always gets done, right? Who would pass up such an opportunity? Sadly, me… on many occasions. I have missed many a Day with the Lord, and always for the same reason: because I fall prey to the lie that I am indispensable. When it comes time to schedule another Day with the Lord, I find myself surprisingly hesitant, even anxious. You see, there is simply too much that I must get done or Grace will suffer. So I postpone. I push it back to next semester, appealing to the excuse of busyness and urgency. I am needed here in the office, not out in the woods. And yet, in the clear light of a particularly revelatory Day with the Lord last week, I can now honestly say that all such excuses are, at their core, a lie. Grace does not need me because God does not need me. I am wholly replaceable. There is not one essential thing I bring to God’s family at Grace that would be missing if I were hit by a bus tomorrow. God is more than able to replace me in an instant with someone far more capable. But my flesh will not accept that reality. In my sinfulness, I want to be needed. Deep down, I fear that time unplugged might reveal that I am not needed as much as I hope I am. As Peterson so insightfully observed in his book The Contemplative Pastor, I suffer from the common desire among so many pastors to be your Messiah. I so want you to need me! It feels good. It validates my right to exist. It fuels my pride. And it, therefore, is utterly sinful! I know, however, that pastors are not alone in this failing. Whatever our position, whether doctor, professor, manager, teacher, stay at home mom – perceived indispensability validates our identity and fuels our pride. We want to be needed. This is why our souls so desperately need a day with the Lord. It corrects our Messiah complex. The office, the practice, the classroom continues to function without us. I am often surprised to see more ministry accomplished on weeks I take a day with the Lord than on weeks I do not! Time intentionally unplugged from our responsibilities reminds us that God does not need us to accomplish what He desires. And that blessed reality frees us to live the subsequent days in far greater peace and dependence. Messiah complexes stoke our pride, but exhaust our bodies and minds. We were never meant to be anyone’s Messiah. That job is already filled by One infinitely more capable than any of us. Take a day with the Lord if for no other reason than to be reminded that you are completely and blessedly dispensable!
I hope you will make time soon to unplug from the urgent tasks of life and get out into the woods, fields, or coffee-shops of the world to read, pray, think, and SEE what is most important.