Some years ago I was serious about distance running. I meticulously planned my meals, training and schedule in order to achieve my goals. After a long season of training I laced them up and lined up for a marathon. At the start I took off on pure adrenaline. I ran with excitement, passing many people and feeling like I was in the Olympics or something. The street was filled with onlookers and there was music. It was excellent. The only problem was I never slowed down. Like a Labrador in an open field I just ran hard for several miles. Then something unexpected happened. At about mile 14 I began to feel irritation in my hips and knees. Instead of slowing down I just winced through it. By mile 18 I was grimacing. By mile 22 I felt like I was in a vice. I had foolishly outrun my ability, and my body was paying the price.
This incident has become instructive for me of late. For years I have been privileged to speak to men who seem to take on too much work and go too hard. They are always running on fumes and rarely feel like they are doing their best in a particular area. They regret their busyness. I look back to many conversations where I’ve tried to help guys see their priorities, build a reasonable plan and add some accountability to make it happen. I’ve even used the analogy of life being a marathon and not a sprint. What’s more, I’ve even used my misplaced running zeal as an example of what could happen if they don’t reign some things in.
The only problem was, I never listened to the advice.
I have been in full-time ministry for just over 10 years now. Prior to that I worked full-time, went to college and was an intern in a church. Also, my wife and I have six kids. This is a full plate. And, it has been a full plate for years. My philosophy from the beginning has been that I will sacrifice personal things (recreation, entertainment, professional pursuits and even sleep) in order to spend time with my family, read my Bible and be a disciplined, godly man. Over the years this resulted in me averaging around six hours of sleep per night. The 4:00 a.m. alarm would go off every morning regardless of what time I set it in the evening. I look back at the last 15 years to when I was a relatively new Christian at 24 and marvel at everything. I would never trade any of it for anything.
At the same time I’ve realize that it cannot continue at this clip. A couple of months ago my wife lovingly talked to me about some concerns with my health. She has been an advocate for healthy living for years, and I’ve largely spurned her advice because I have to run hard. Now she has objective items related to things she has observed. She called a timeout and told me to take my own advice and reel things in.
Here are some of the areas I’ve made adjustments or re-commitments to:
• Tend to my soul through the daily disciplines of scheduled Bible reading, meditation and prayer.
• Enjoy some quiet to think without planning, working or preparing for conversations.
• Take a day off that is actually a day off.