Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)
12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
This past summer we experienced our first sabbatical in eleven years of ministry. It was a wonderful time to pause, rest, reconnect, and reflect. It is my hope to write a short series of articles in reflection of that experience. This is the first.
Part of our sabbatical was nine days in Marble, Colorado at Marble Retreat Center (marbleretreat.org). This stay included a week of intensive group and couples counseling as well as times of quiet rest in the beautiful surroundings of the Colorado Rockies.
While there, I have the opportunity to walk each morning in the cool, quiet mountain air and bask in the beauty surrounding me. This was the first week in June, and the snow was still melting, causing little rivulets of water to flow down the face of the mountain. As these streams cascade downward, they would come together and gather strength. By the time they reach the bottom and dumped into the Chrystal River, the runoff had enough force to move large stones and piles of gravel, occasionally dumping them on the only road leading to Marble, much to the dismay of the locals. This is all because of the nature of water, in that it always seeks the path of least resistance, irrespective if the potential damage it may cause on the way. It carves out channels and moves things as it will. And, when the flow slows, it dumps by the wayside that which it can no longer carry, doing so with no concern for what is left behind or any inconvenience it may cause.
As I watched this unfold, I was forced to ask a potentially painful reflection question, “In what areas of my life am I like those streams, following the path of least resistance, regardless of the damage I may be causing?” This easy path may be in life, marriage, or ministry relationships and has the potential to harm those around me and negatively affect our ministry. This easy path may involve avoiding an uncomfortable but necessary conversation or putting off a difficult task in favor of something easy or fun. It might be surrendering to the digital distractions of this world instead of working to stay focused on what is really important and best in the long run. Sometimes even considering what the “long-run” is might be a task we avoid in favor of “living for the moment.” It might be avoiding exercise, either physical or mental, in exchange for excepting an “inevitable” decline that may not be inevitable.
The irony of all of this is that the path of least resistance I was contemplating was what brought us to Marble in the first place, I had just not discovered it yet. As it turns out, I had been taking, by default, the path of least resistance for some time. It seems that I had not been truly dealing with the emotional load of our ministry, choosing to stuff the painful emotions away instead of experiencing them and, as our counselors suggested, putting some tears on them. In a real sense, I became emotionally dead, or at least dying. It took a good sabbatical and good counseling to bring me to this realization.
Thankfully, we are much better today. We have new rhythms in place to guard against emotional stuffing, and I have a greater awareness of my previous path tendencies. Today we are choosing a better, but not always easier, path. If you find yourself in need of this type of help, or if you just want a companion on the journey, give us a call. We are here to help you find a better path…
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