In the last 5 or 6 years I have revised a long held and practiced life and work value. I now believe and follow the principle - “Stop well and you will go well”, and would commend this to all passionate, strongly motivated Christians and Christian leaders.
There is a Biblical sabbatical principle for God's creation which I think we ignore at the peril of quality of life, faith and ministry. There is a rhythm of created life which ensures a greater chance of sustainability and ongoing well being if we explicitly replenish regularly our spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical batteries.
Through my role as a mentor to Christian leaders in the last 6 years I have become aware that one of major threats to ongoing leadership within Australian Christianity and churches is burnout - and its key symptom of emotional exhaustion.
For the most part of 6 decades I have been worried that people might think I am lazy or unmotivated if I was conscientious about regular days off, taking all my holidays, not accumulating too much long service leave, taking regular spiritual retreats and taking sabbatical leave on a semi-regular basis.
It is probably not surprising therefore that I had a significant burnout experience along the way. I did not really listen to my heart, my head and my body despite regularly feeling quite tired, stressed and depleted.
I now believe that unless I am able to stem the flow of adrenalin periodically, the wear and tear on me in each of the key areas for life, faith and ministry (spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical) will open up the probability of me running low on resources. To attain and maintain a 'quiet centre' is now a central issue for me.
Even a casual reading of the gospels affirm that Jesus regularly withdrew in order to sustain the intimacy of his relationship with His father and to revamp his resources.
About 5 years ago I was asked to teach a Christian Spirituality Course in England entitled “Contemplative Prayer and Retreating”. I did not really know what 'Contemplative Prayer' was! Nor had I not read any of the major texts listed for the course.
As I sought 'frantically' to prepare to teach, I became convinced that I had missed an essential aspect of good stewardship. Life, faith and ministry are all most effectively embraced in ways which foster 'finishing well' as an aim and regular replenishment as a practice. I trust it will not take you as long as it took me to embrace this rhythm of God's creation.
Stop well and you will go well.
Keith Farmer (Mentor)