The past couple of weeks have been difficult. I was diagnosed as COVID-positive after beginning to experience the majority of symptoms and it has truly been a difficult illness to contend with. I am exceptionally thankful for the vaccine as I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to deal with all these symptoms and more without the antibodies.
Two of the biggest symptoms I’ve experienced have been fatigue (both physical and mental) and loss of memory. As someone who is always moving and has had a relatively decent memory, this was difficult to deal with as it affected not only what I did at home but aspects of my job function as well. I tried to make sure I had communicated everything and remembered all I needed to pass to my team while I was home sick, but I quickly saw there were aspects I missed or simply forgot.
But through this season I began to see God working in my life and teaching me various lessons. Lessons I knew, but wasn’t always good at following. Today, I simply want to share with you five things I have learned, and relearned, during my time in quarantine, and I hope that these are an encouragement and a challenge for you.
1. Breaks are needed.
This is one of the first things I learned during COVID. My energy levels tanked and I wasn’t able to go from task to task like I used to. My mind couldn’t focus, my physical energy was depleted, and I couldn’t keep going. While I first lamented that my body wasn’t producing the results I was used to, I began to see how important breaks are in our daily routine. It was during those breaks that I could reflect and think about various topics. It was during those breaks that I could be present. And those breaks allowed me to find refreshment and encouragement.
When we are working in ministry we don’t often afford ourselves breaks even though we need them. And this period of quarantine has taught me to be better about pressing pause and taking time to breathe, refocus, and reflect. So make sure to take breaks.
2. Rest is necessary.
Even more than breaks, I learned the importance and need for rest. I have known this for many years and have even written about it. But if I am fully transparent, I struggle with this. I am a go, go, go type of person. I am always thinking about the task at hand and the next ones that are coming. Elise would tell you that I struggle with sitting still and relaxing, and that is very true.
In the ministry world I think this mentality affects us more than we care to admit. There is always something to do. Always someone to meet with or help. Always a lesson to give or conversation to be had. But we don’t always think about ourselves and the rest we not only need but deserve. My administrative assistant reflected to me that perhaps God was using this time to challenge me and force me to slow down and rest. And you know what? She was right. I haven’t had to handle all of the “work stuff” because I couldn’t. I stayed home from two weeks of youth group and went to bed early. I can’t tell you the last time I did that, but it felt good to rest and refresh.
God’s desire for those He calls to ministry isn’t that we kill ourselves doing it. But rather that we allow Him to sustain and work through us to accomplish His plan. But we can only be used by Him if we are keeping ourselves healthy and rested. God Himself rested multiple times both in the creation account and throughout His earthly ministry. And if rest is good for God it also good for us. Coming out of this time of isolation and quarantine one of the rhythms I want to be more intentional with is rest and time for refreshment, and I want to encourage all of you to do so as well.
3. It’s okay to ask for and receive help.
During this period of quarantine I had to ask for a lot of help, and if I’m being honest that was incredibly humbling for me. As someone who is a self-starter and tends to be prideful about being able to do things on my own, I had to learn to stop and ask for help because I couldn’t do things due to being in isolation.
But it was during this time that I saw my team rise to the challenge, take ownership, and surpass my expectations. It was humbling to ask, but in doing so I saw my teammates use their gifts and take larger leadership roles. It was a privilege to witness their skills and gifts be utilized and it was also a teaching moment for me as I learned to let go and get help. Going forward I am leaning by into the skills and talents of others and releasing more as I trust others to help and lead.
4. Letting go is necessary.
I’m not sure if you’re like me, but I like order and control. I like to know that everything will function well and that it will all follow a plan. But when you’re sidelined with COVID, your best laid plans go out the window. I had to call in favors, be willing to not be in control, and let go of the day to day managing of the ministry. It was hard and in the beginning it brought some anxiety and tension. But in letting go I was able to lean into trusting God with my time. In letting go I learned to not try and be the savior of the ministry. In letting go I was able to release the pressure that I had felt and truly rest in Christ and His sustainment and peace. Letting go brings freedom. Letting go builds trust. Letting go teaches you to rely upon God and let Him be the capstone in your life and ministry.
5. If it all relies on you, you’re in trouble.
Sometimes in our ministry roles we can put all the pressure on ourselves to make our programs and ministries succeed. It may not be something we consciously do but it may be reflected in our subconscious. Do you feel like a failure if the program doesn’t go how you want? Do you feel like you aren’t making a difference if only a few students show? Does a single negative comment deflate you completely?
I think these feelings and perspectives can come about because we believe we have to be the figure head and leader. But we also put unfair pressure on ourselves because we infer a savior complex upon ourselves. The truth is that there is only one Savior, and that isn’t me and it isn’t you. If we try to focus a ministry and it’s success on ourselves (whether consciously or subconsciously) we will fail. Instead we must be willing to release and trust both God and our team. In doing so we are releasing control and holding it in an open hand toward God rather than clenching our fists around the control we desire. So be willing to step back, release, and remember that it doesn’t rely upon you. You are just the ambassador and the mouthpiece for the Gospel and God wants you to release and rest in Him.