I have to admit that I tend to be a Type-A personality. Some would argue that should be a Type-AAA. I seldom slow down for very long nor will you find me in one spot for a long period of time. I prefer doing a wide variety of things during the course of most days, and I've been like this most of my life. That's probably why being a bivocational pastor was so easy for me. I could keep busy doing lots of different things.
Most years I struggled on vacation trying to slow down long enough to enjoy myself. I can remember a number of vacations on the beach when I stayed wound tight as a banjo string before finally loosening up a little on Wednesday. The vacation my wife and I enjoyed last week was different. I never felt stressed at all and never felt like I needed to be doing something. I played golf our first day there and never had any real desire to play again the rest of the week. I just enjoyed spending the day with my wife sitting around the pool reading or walking the beach or driving around the community looking at the changes since our last time there. It was really one of the most relaxing vacations I ever had.
That slower pace has continued this week as I returned to work. Rather than running from one thing to another I've taken a slower pace. Although I needed to get some things done today I met an individual who is dealing with some issues and needed to talk. I gave that person time. Soon after lunch I had a phone call from a church leader who wanted to talk about some issues at the church he attends. We spent much more time on the phone than normal as I sensed he was feeling some pain with the things that we discussed. We scheduled another phone call for tomorrow so he could update me on his thoughts. A pastor called to schedule a workshop for his church for early next year and there was no sense of a need to hurry through the call to get to the next activity. I've enjoyed this slower pace, but now I'm wondering how many times in the past I have rushed past a need to accomplish the next thing on my list.
I'm someone who enjoys a to-do list, and nothing makes me any happier than to have everything checked off at the end of the day, but could that have prevented me from seeing someone God had put in my path who needed my assistance? I hate to admit it, but probably. A pastor I respect once told me that the most important place he could be was where he was at, and the most important person he could talk to was the one he was with. At the time I thought he was just trying to excuse his reputation for often being late, but now I think he understood something I didn't. People are more important than appointments or to-do lists.
It's funny that I have preached sermons on how some of Jesus' most important events occurred as he was walking and encountering people, but I have seldom walked through life. Somehow I never connected the point of the message with my own tendency to run through life. It reminds me of an old Andy Griffith episode when a visiting pastor talked about people's tendency to rush through life and never stopping to enjoy it. As Andy and Barney discuss it after Sunday lunch they remembered how the community used to enjoy a Sunday afternoon listening to the community band. They decide to see if they can do it that again that Sunday. They find the bandstand needs some repairs so some people begin to do that. They also find that the old band uniforms are torn and dirty so some other people begin to repair and clean them. The community band hasn't played together for years so they need to practice. The entire day is spent with everybody running around trying to do something relaxing. The finally have everything ready for the concert when the visiting minister comes by. They invite him to stay and hear the concert, but, of course, he has to run to catch his plane for his next appointment. Like me, the minister had a great message but failed to connect it with his own life.
It won't be easy, but I'm going to try to walk through life a little more. I want to see if there have been some ministry opportunities I've been missing because I've been too busy to see them. I want to take a little more time to look at what God is doing in our world. I want to enjoy family and friends a little more than in recent years. I want to build margin in my life so when emergencies come, and they will come, I'll be ready for them. I want to be able to hear God when He speaks in a still, small voice as He leads me to new adventures. What about you?