Jim and I have been very busy since we came to the General Conference. There are so many things we want to see accomplished for the pastors and their families. Feeling such a burden for the clergy and their spouses in our church, I became so completely caught up in all the work here at Shepherdess International that I neglected some other very important things. Perhaps sharing my experience will give you an opportunity to learn a lesson at my expense rather than yours!
For Jim and me, moving to the General Conference meant marketing and selling a house at our previous location and then spending a lot more time looking for another house in this new, strange city. Then came the actual packing and relocation, which was followed by unpacking. All of you know how that goes.
We barely managed to get settled into our new home when the ever-pressing responsibilities of the work here at Shepherdess began piling up. It seemed that no matter how long I stayed at the office or worked on the weekends I never got caught up. It was very distressing for me to leave work undone, and travel commitments meant long weeks away from home, during which time the work just kept accumulating.
Each year for most of our married life, Jim and I have faithfully taken our vacation time and relaxed in the desert. We both enjoy the hot, dry air and therapeutic mineral waters that nature provides. It has been a wholesome time, breathing fresh air, resting, reading, and refreshing ourselves for the responsibilities of our work. We look forward to this time each year, because afterward we can face our work again with renewed strength body, spirit, and mind. We have several dear friends who live near our place of retreat, so our time visiting and fellowshipping with them is also a special highlight.
Our move to the Washington, B.C., area, with all the responsibilities and changes that happened at the same time, meant that time rushed by too fast. Somehow we both got caught up in meeting all the appointments, obligations, and work that had been outlined for us. We did not set aside specific time for that integral part of our life our vacation. This was a serious mistake.
As the months passed, I began to feel the effects of not taking this special time away from the pressure of responsibilities. The work still piled up, and I was still never finished. But I found that I tired more quickly, caught more head colds, had more sore throats, and my allergies reacted violently. I felt like I was falling apart physically.
We made a bad judgment call. We had gotten our priorities all mixed up and decided that we didn't need to rest as Jesus did when He was here on earth. We assumed that we didn't have to take time for refreshment and fellowship with our friends, like Jesus took time to be with His closest friends. Somehow we had even decided that our work was more important than Jesus' own work.
Ellen White tells us the importance of healthful living. And she is careful and specific in conveying that this means a total "lifestyle," not just one or two areas of our lives. I wouldn't have considered eating something unclean or drinking alcohol, but I abused the temple of the Holy Spirit by not providing it sufficient rest. I broke a very important health principle, and I paid the price.
As pastoral families we often become so involved with work in the church that we mix up our priorities. Jesus is coming soon. There are millions of people who still need to hear this. Local church work is never done. Members always have something that needs our urgent attention. All of these things can rob us of what we really need rest, refreshment, and fellowship with our immediate family and friends.
Wherever you are, the vacation season is coming upon us quickly. Jim and I recently set aside time for our desert retreat. I try not to make the same mistake again and again! It has not been easy to schedule this time of rejuvenation. Work will still pile up, people will still plead for us to take one more itinerary. But we must do what is right while we do what is good! Modeling our lives after Jesus' own example is not always easy. But then doing the right thing is seldom easy.
What are you doing? Is your life balanced? Or are you and your family so involved with the church that you think that because you are the church's leader, programs or the church cannot possibly survive without you?
Jesus' time of ministry was very short He had only those three and a half years to accomplish everything He needed to do. Jesus might have healed more people, preached more sermons, done more of every good thing if He had not spent time alone and time in close fellowship with His friends. But Jesus knew that He needed refreshment. Think of it this way: if Jesus needed communion with His Father and fellowship with His friends, as His created creatures we need this even more.
Plan now for that time. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that one of these days your family will get everything at the church accomplished and then you can take some time off. You will never get everything done. And if you do take some time away from the work, believe me, all of it will be waiting for you when you return.
So spend some time with your spouse now. Nurture each other now. Fellowship with your children now. Plan a vacation now, if you haven't. And spend more time alone with Jesus now.