Over three decades ago, I heard three phrases that have shaped and sustained my life.  These three simple two-word statements burrowed deep into my soul and became my life practice.  They have kept my life in proper balance and in a positive tension.  They have preserved my physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health.  Divert daily.  Withdraw weekly. Abandon annually.  That’s it.  Those six words.  Those three phrases.

In my particular career, I’ve read that over 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month.  Other studies show it is may be as low as 250 pastors leave their ministerial calling each month. Even that is too much.  Other careers have similar or worse statistics.  The careers with the highest burnout rates are (Descending Order): Physician, Nurse, Social Worker, Teacher, School Principal, Attorney, Police Officer, Public Accounting, Fast Food and Retail. Every career has its unique stress associated with it.  The point is not to talk about the stress.  Let me unpack the three phrases above that have kept me in the game and on the playing field for over 40 years now.

DIVERT DAILY – None of us are designed to go 24/7.  We all will benefit from diverting daily.  If we hit the ground running and go non-stop all day and fall asleep on the couch (while still engaged in our work), we will greatly increase our chance of burnout.   This is a simple way to keep rhythm in your life.  

God did this.  Every day He stopped to look at what He had created and diverted from working to look at the galaxies, the earth, the mountains, waterfalls he was molding and said, “It is good!”  Every day, we need to divert from our work to invest in our relationship with God, our families and friends.  Diverting every day to exercise, eat healthy and sleep is important.  We would benefit from a practice of diverting from our devices for awhile each day.  How are you doing at diverting from the busyness of your work?

WITHDRAW WEEKLY – All we have to do is look at God from the creation and we will see this pattern.  Work 6, rest 1.  Work 6, rest 1.  Work 6, rest 1. The introduction of Shabbat (Sabbath) models the rythmn of at least one 24 hour block of time out of every seven days to stop, rest, delight and contemplate.  This weekly withdrawal from our busyness is certain to make us healthier and more productive.  It is a routine that helps us to realize that our value is not in what we possess or produce.  Our value if found in who we are.  We truly are human BEings and not human DOings.   

Check yourself.  Are you comfortable about building the “doing of nothing“ into your schedule each week?  Are you good with nothing measurable being accomplished one day a week?  If not, you may be a slave of productivity and performance.  God has designed you to take a day each week to do what recharges, refreshes, and renews you. He also invites us to spend time acknowledging Him and recharging our spiritual batteries in an extended way beyond the daily times.

ABANDON ANNUALLY – In America, we left a record number of unused vacation days on the table last year.  768 million of them to be exact.  We have become too busy to take vacations.  At least once a year (I need more than one each year), we should abandon the daily and weekly routines of work and do something totally different.  And I think that means we don’t just take our work with us and change our location of work.  Abandoning means letting go of the usual, and leaving it behind.  Maybe shutting down the email and social media is a place to start.  It often takes us several days to start to defrag our minds so we stop thinking about our work.  And then we usually start re-engaging our minds with our work on before we ever get back on the job.  Therefore, this time of abandonment of our work needs to be a stretch of at least a week or two to get a significant recharge of our emotional and physical batteries.

How are you doing with this one?  I’m grateful that some workplaces are requiring people to take vacations and not to just skip them year after year and hope to get a big vacation payout at the end.  We will be much healthier and productive workers if we’ve had some time to abandon annually. 

These six words.  These three phrases.  They have regularly reminded me and helped me to creatively manage the tensions of an often stressful calling and career.  I’m praying they will help you as well. 

QUESTION: What have you found that helps you the most in keeping the proper tension between busyness and rest? (I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.)

5 responses to 3 Life-Sustaining Phrases

  1. al coutant on July 5, 2020 at 9:46 AM Reply

    In reference to my earlier post, whenever someone asks me what kind of husband I am, I just reply “one in ten thousand”. Can’t help it if they don’t have the background.

  2. Al Coutant on July 5, 2020 at 9:00 AM Reply

    I’m laughing as I post this – Prov 21:9 and Prov 25:24. “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Fortunately, my wife, April, of almost 53 years, is good to live with (hence the 53 years). However, I’ve been around some quarrelsome households – hard to “divert daily” if there is no peace at home. April says she only speaks about 10% of what she is thinking. Of course I only listen to about 10%, so I guess I actually hear only 1% of what she is thinking. And I probably only act on about 10% of that. So I act on about 1/1000 of what she would like. And then only about 10% is up to her standards. So my accomplishments only meet 1/10,000 of how she would like things done. I tell her that I do the important things – but don’t understand why she isn’t impressed.

  3. Al Coutant on July 5, 2020 at 8:28 AM Reply

    Great message. I have been fortunate over my career (about 42 years total – Ford and Caterpillar). Most of the time I could leave work at a reasonable hour and not think about it. I deliberately did not take work home, nor talk about it. I finally quit my job at Ford because the overtime started ramping up and demanding a life style I did not want. They called overtime the “golden handcuffs” at work. We always went to church on the weekend and did some family stuff, and, thankfully, took yearly vacations (usually 2 weeks or more) with the kids – usually to places where we could have some individual alone time (cabins on lakes, etc). I grew up on a farm, 10 miles away from town, so was accustomed to much more solitude and peace than many people. Nothing recharges a person like some serious alone time – read a book, have a hobby, enjoy the beauty God has created for us (and Him), and so on. If a person is addicted to noise and being constantly busy, then being alone for a while without those things, probably takes some serious adjustment. But it can be really healthy – like nothing else.

  4. Phil Rivera on June 27, 2020 at 7:19 PM Reply

    Sorry, I was busy working all week and I didn’t get to read this till I was doing nothing! 🙂
    I believe My experience going through the crash of 2008. I lost everything, but I was given everything ,if that makes sense? I found that I lost everything that I thought was important, but God showed me freedom. I learned to take weekends off. I learned also what was really important and it wasn’t things, money, or my abilities. I was missing the mark by miles, now looking back. I wasn’t putting God first. I wasn’t giving him the glory, or my worries. I crashed with the a capital C. I have been Doing the three things you have shared even while walking through the fires. If I didn’t I would have been cooked to a crisp!!

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and story!
    We love you
    Phil and Lady Di

  5. robinvdb on June 26, 2020 at 6:19 AM Reply

    Thank you Dennis, this helped me revamp my thinking. I believe I am able to mindfully have a sabbath without “inconveniencing” Fred who is unprepared to think of keeping one. I can do it the day before my group as I study and get prepared – through the next day after group. I normally do that anyway. I feel like my life is more sabbath than activity anyway. That is why I say “mindnfully”. I thought you did a great job on this sermon. Robin V.

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