The Advantage of Leaving

HealthylifeIn our thinking today, many of us have erroneously formed the idea that we must always be present, always be on and always be available. While machines, technology and wi-fi can perhaps deliver on those illusions, human beings cannot.Created in the image of God who ceased from work one, full day per week and did not engage in the business of creativity on that day off, we learn we all have an imprinted space in the human soul that is truly God-like. This realization can awaken to the fact that we are not machines. It is a saving epiphany that I needed in my life. It feels like another salvation to see life this way now. Like God, we can be off. And when we are off, we are more like God than than when we are on and engaged all the time. If we choose to work all the time we fashion ourselves to be MORE than God. Perhaps in our efforts, we secretly want to be God.Every single time we choose to dis-engage from our work, we honor this holy space within us and we honor ourselves as image bearers of the God who created us to NOT: always be on; always be available and always be doing something. We do not always have to and need to be available. In fact, when we embrace the realization to be off, away and can vacate our work spaces ---both inside our head and by withdrawing from our work, we become more like God than when we choose to work all the time.Americans embrace a false assumption that the hallmark of life in almost every form of work and life is to present to our work no matter what form our work takes us. Work then can become toxic because there is no margin. There are no limits. Life becomes sick because we need time off and away to do what the Quakers said, “to come down where we OUGHT to be.” The Quakers continue their manifesto in song by saying, “THEN (and only then) we will leave in a valley of peace and delight.” Where there is no stopping of work, there is no peace and delight. Whatever peace there is--always grows thin until we live like God intended.This has been my major neurosis that I have had to face in my personality and the wake of how that kind of lifestyle washes over family, friends, colleagues, church and the workplace. It is now the leading neurosis that I face in my work with leaders across the world and who plow the fields in business or ministry. Sadly, there is absolutely no difference in the malaise in the souls of leaders no matter where they work.Believing that our value, esteem and merit comes through work sets us up for implosions resulting in inner addiction and outer chaos. While celebrated for all of our efforts, most people like me face inner demons which haunts us saying, “You’ve not done enough. “ “Do something spectacular.” “Do something to prove yourself.” This kind of jeering is, in fact the exact same kind of mental anguish that faced Jesus in the Temptation. He, like we are still tempted to prove ourselves, seek security and grasp and hoard power. Goodness! Will we ever learn?Our sabbatical was a planned method for me to practice detachment. It was a prescribed rhythm for me to let go. In fact my own spiritual director told me, "Steve, your sabbatical is the time for you to practice retiring." I found that so interesting to be told this and I practiced my sabbatical in way I have found most working men and women never will and never do. I needed to let go of my work in order to be gripped by something even bigger than my work. And herein lies the dilemma: most people do not know that there is anything bigger in the world or universe than their work and their accomplishments. Time off always shows you the bigger story and the larger picture we live in, friends.Believing and living in this illusions sets us up to believe three lies:1. To be present is always better than being absent. Every caring person I know struggles here. We feel the need to always return every call; every email; visit the needy and care for everyone at the expense of ourselves. We will care—but we will not be "care-ful" with ourselves. Having no self-compassion, we implode and we implode because caring is a needed and necessary exchange. When we care for others, we must REALLY embrace how to care for ourselves. Sabbatical, vacation and time off is a needed and necessary exhange. When we do it, we always feel better and then start giving back in a healthy cycle not a sick neurosis.2. We adopt the belief that our own value is based on our efforts. We feel the need to always be on; always be checking if we are needed. Trust in others is eroded and a false sense of self-importance lies rooted deep in the soul. We think that action is better than reflection. We believe that outer deeds are more honoring than self-compassion. We hold to the notion that we are celebrated when we are human doings, not human beings.3. We foster a conviction that says to be present and available is always better than not being available. The 24/7 value of being “on” makes those of us who want to be off—feel guilty and feel blankets in shame, blame and guilt.Sabbatical was a season of de-bunking these lies; practicing how to withdraw and start living a life that was more life-giving than life draining. Most of all Sabbatical was my intentional CHOICE to heed the very words of Jesus when he said, “It is to your ADVANTAGE that I go away.” (John 16:7,13). He knew that if he were to go away, then a Greater Power would come upon his followers and in his movement. It was necessary that he go away and it was even more, to the advantage of everyone that he go away.The advantage followers get when the leader goes away is of inestimable value and worth. Again, when a leader goes away, it calls for a different and necessary season. In my case, it called my staff up and they have excelled in their work and in every single area of my work, everything has grown, improved and is in fact more stable. It is remarkable. Sabbatical is the season of practicing a much needed withdrawal and detachment that brings life; fillets fear open by making you face the question, “What are you really afraid of that keeps you staying engaged?” I'm so impressed with our staff. It is truly remarkable the empowerment they have all experienced. It's humbling and helps me realize my small place in the world rather than foster another illusion that I have to be on to make this work--to make everything work. Sabbatical,vacation and time off is empowering.So dear friends and readers, by choosing your vacation and planning to dis-engage, you will be more like God than by choosing to remain, staying engaged. By taking a sort of sabbatical from your iphone, Facebook and social media, you can fast from such a state of being wired to being really on with yourself and your family. It really is not that hard to practice being God-like. But it really does take courage to make this choice. For me, it came down to this: Do I have the courage to take time off that I know will be good for me? I answered this question with “Yes.” How will you answer the question?