There are times in our lives when vacations, rest days, calling in sick, going fishing, taking a walk or any of our other normal tricks for finding rest just don’t work. These are the times when we are spent. We are at our end and can’t seem to keep our heads above the water line. There is still some good things happening but the ground of our souls is cracked and dry.
Recently I have been in a season like that. I tried everything to break out of it. I did all my normal things that usually work – I took a personal retreat, I rode my bike, I tried to rest. Although I enjoyed those moments, once they were over I was right back where I started. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
One day I was talking to my mentor, Doug Fike, and he said, “You’re depleted.“
That word hit the mark. There’s something relieving about at least knowing what’s wrong, even when you don’t know how to fix it.
Soon after, my leadership team recognized I wasn’t doing well. They said I was grumpy and responding to people poorly. I’ve learned enough over the years to know that when people I love and respect are seeing something in me, even if I don’t see it, to listen. They suggested (strongly) that I begin my annual month-long sabbath a little early, so I did.
During my time away I ran across a devotional on the YouVersion Bible app called Soul Rest. That sounded great to me, so I dug in. On day three this verse was part of the reading and I couldn’t get it out of my head.
For I [fully] satisfy the weary soul, and I replenish every languishing and sorrowful person. – Jeremiah 31:25
I spent the next several days thinking about those words. It’s been water to my soul and life to my bones. Here are three reflections…
– God is the one who replenishes us
That seems fairly obvious for a person of faith to say, but it’s so easy to lose sight of this simple truth. There were many days all I wanted to do was come home from work and watch TV. Although that’s not terrible, it’s not going to renew my soul. It might even make things worse.
– Soul health is vital
I can’t give what I don’t have. If I don’t spend dedicated time building my own soul up, depletion is inevitable. I’m a TJ on the Myers Briggs, which means, in part, that I don’t have a felt need for down time and I tend to be out of touch with how I’m feeling. Upon reflection, I’ve realized that I’m going to need some people speaking into this much more pro-actively.
– I am finite
Languish means to: lose or lack vitality, grow weak or feeble
People will often say to me, “You’re a high capacity leader.” That may be true but like every strength, it has its weakness. Here’s what I mean – because I rarely run out of gas and when everyone else seems to be exhausted I feel like I’ve still got more to give, it’s easy for me to lean on my own strength, to rely on my own intuition, and to deceive myself into delusion about my capacity to just keep going. That’s what got me to the point of depletion. It’s not that I wasn’t praying or worshiping but I wasn’t depending. And my times with God had become much less about him and much more about the work, the people, and the stress.
In the Soul Rest devotional I was challenged to take 10 minutes a day for silence. Sounds simple. It’s not. Our lives are chaotic and hectic. Deadlines abound and expectations are abundant. I can’t think of a more counter-cultural activity than silence. That ten minutes of silence has become a safe haven for me. It is becoming something I can’t and don’t want to live without.