Leading on Empty
I am almost finished reading Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordero. In it, Cordero talks about a difficult season in his life when he hit the wall. The message in this book, in addition to wise counsel from friends, has encouraged me to make an intentional effort to stop.
One of the recurring themes in my life over the past few years has been the idea of respecting the Sabbath. But I must admit that often, for extended seasons, our ministry over the past 12 years was done at an intense pace and with few or no breaks at all. Even with the best intentions, fully devoting our lives as missionaries can cause us to miss the point of God's plan for our lives.
Over the past 23 months, I have thought a lot about the tasks and ministries that Julie performed as wife, mother, preacher, teacher, radio administrator, and pioneer of Children of Promise, a child sponsorship program, in Paraguay. I can attest that Julie was a very hard-working woman and someone who gave a lot of herself to her family, other people, and the ministries she was involved in. I could go on and on about her devotion and her work ethic. Apparently, God said, "Well done, my faithful servant. It's time to rest."
The question that has been recurring in my life recently is, "How does God want me to live my calling from now on for the mission the HE still has for me?" I don’t mind hard work and being busy, but I've realized that work (even Christian work) can replace the more important things, such as a clear sense of purpose, and give us a faulty perception of worthiness. With my Type A personality, I value the importance of showing results, but I am coming to understand that not being visibly productive does not mean that you are lazy or that you have nothing to show for yourself. Through the process of grieving and recognizing how much my life was shaken and how much was taken from me, I have come to the following realization: Even though we often feel that we need to be doing all of these things and that others depend on us, God has ways to somehow manage for things to go on without us.
As the second anniversary of Julie and Timothy's passing approaches, I have decided to take a few months to pause and refocus. I am not questioning my call to continue in ministry, but I've realized that, even before the accident, there was so much work to do in our ministry that we were often leading on empty. Since the accident, surviving and learning to live with the loss has been the constant. However, I now find myself enough detached from the pain—and yet not so heavily involved in the ministry as before—so as to take a good look at how to approach this next chapter in life. And I plan to close some earlier chapters, too, by writing reports, thank-you notes, goodbye letters . . . and sorting through the ministries, the things, and the life I shared for almost 15 years with Julie and almost 7 years with Timothy.