What I Learned In The Back Of The Boat
I don't rest well. I think it's a combination of dogged determination to finish coupled with a desire to please that often keeps me pushing longer than I should. But I learned a lesson from Jesus that is making it much easier for me to slow down and rest. I learned it in the back of the boat.
Leaders Live With Tension
The older I get the more I sense the necessary tension of life: God is sovereign . . . and I am responsible! Leadership is joyful . . . and at times quite draining. There's never enough time . . . and yet the tasks keep piling up.I want to press on and finish . . . but I've got to rest!
What is a leader supposed to do? We learn a very important lesson from Jesus:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41 ESV
What I learned in the back of the boat
I was busily preparing to address a group of church planters about the importance of rest--something I had very little of the night before--when God opened my eyes to a very important principle. I learned it from Jesus, asleep in the back of the boat:
It's okay to rest while others are working and life is chaotic, because God is in control, and he cares for you, and he will help you.
It's okay to rest
Do you see where Jesus is? Do you see what he's doing? Jesus is in the back of the boat asleep. Jesus models what the Father teaches -- that we must take times for regular rest.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)
It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2 ESV
Leaders . . . God loves you so much that he created times for you to rest. It's not only okay to rest, burning the candle at both ends is vanity.
While others are working
I have a hard time resting while others are working. Insecurity probably drives this. I want others to know I am diligent, hard-working, and dutiful. But there is Jesus, counting sheep in the back of the boat, while his disciples were working hard.
And life is chaotic
The squall came up--and Jesus still rested. The disciples were ferociously bailing water--and Jesus still rested. Jesus' leadership team feared for their lives--and Jesus still rested. At that moment life was absolutely chaotic--and Jesus still rested.
The point is not that leaders simply "chill out" in the face of adversity, but that leaders do rest when it is necessary. Recently, a physician shared with me that laws were passed mandating rest for medical interns. These laws were not in effect while he was an intern. He shuddered as he thought about all the patients he treated--many in grave situations--while he himself was running on fumes.
Resting in the midst of chaos is a paradoxical necessity at times. What gives us the confidence to do it? It is knowing that God is in control.
Because God is in control
When Jesus awoke, he and rebuked the wind and said to the sea,
“Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
It appeared to the disciples that Jesus was "clueless" to their needs. He wasn't! He was sovereign and in control of that chaotic situation. And he is still sovereign and still in control of your chaotic situation. So you can rest.
And he cares for you
Do you believe that? Do you believe that God really cares for you? He does! The disciples woke Jesus and cried out: "Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?" Jesus left no room for doubt. He rebuked the wind and silenced the sea. God cares. God cares for you! He cares enough to give you nightly rest (127:2) and Sabbath rest (Genesis 2).
And he will help you
At my ordination, my predecessor David Nicholas reminded me of an invaluable lesson. In John 15:5, Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing" but Paul reminds me in Philippians 4:13 that with Christ, "I can do all things." God came to the rescue of his disciples. He still does that. He promises his help for every challenge you face.
Here's how to get the rest you need
Despite Jesus' example and the clear teaching that he really cares about your rest, he won't throw you in the sack and tuck you in at night. Getting the rest you need is your job! It's that tension thing at work. So here are three practical steps you can take:
- Find your "back of the boat." - Study Jesus' life, he knew when and where to go to get the rest he needed. How about you?
- Learn the lesson of the beast. - I've written about this valuable lesson in the post, Why You Need A Replenishment Strategy. You can click here to get it.
- Pick up your easel. - Winston Churchill lead during perilous times, but he still stopped for the one activity that recharged his batteries--painting. Painting calmed his soul and refreshed his spirit. What activty helps put fuel back in your tank?
All leaders face the high seas of adversity. These are times that test our mettle and wear out our bodies. We've got to rest--and we can. It's okay to rest while others are working and life is chaotic, because God is in control and he cares for you, and he will help you. It's a lesson I learned in the back of a boat.