Last week I was in Mexico leading a retreat and providing counseling for a leadership group of pastors. During our time of extended solitude with Jesus I hiked into the hills above the retreat center. I was laying down in the quiet watching hawks take turns riding on the wind currents when I noticed one of the pastors perched on a rock in the distance.
I sensed the smile of God on what we were doing.
“Wasting” Time with Jesus
Normally this pastor would be working a long day in a hot factory and then come home to a church that needs him and a wife and two small children who need him more, but on this day he was resting with Jesus on a rock, overlooking the neighborhoods he ministers to. He was practicing my instructions: “Do nothing. Don’t try to make anything happen.”
Do nothing? Don’t try to make anything happen?
Why? What’s the point of being so “unproductive”? Isn’t this just wasting time? No. This pastor was learning to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19, NIV). He’s learning to step into the larger, unseen reality where, “The Lord is in his holy temple” and “all the earth [can] be silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20, NIV).
If this pastor spends enough time doing nothing and not trying to make anything happen he might notice what God is doing! He might sense God’s presence or hear his voice. He might realize how very much he is loved and be renewed and empowered to follow Jesus more closely, not only in his life, but also in the leadership of his church.
To do nothing is the first step to just be with Jesus.
Solitude and Leadership
Many pastors and ministry leaders are too busy with God’s work to make time for their intimacy with Jesus. This pastor has practiced this on previous retreats with me, but it’s still rather new for him. Five hours of being quiet and still with Jesus may induce withdrawal from his normally busy life and stir up emotions about whatever stress, hurts, or longings he’s been feeling under the surface. This isn’t comfortable, but its needed.
Most people, especially pastors and leaders, need a dramatic disconnection from life and ministry responsibilities, normal communications, and noise in order to experience this purifying process and to engage deeply with God. For them this is the only way into the easy yoke and light burden of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30). Actually experiencing the peace of Christ is what he needs and it’s what his family, church, and neighborhood need from him.
Soon I’d be sitting in a circle with this pastor and the others to listen to how they were feeling and what God was saying to them in their solitude. Then we’d talk about how they’re leading their churches and key decisions they needed to make for the leadership of their network of pastors.
For that moment on the rock I prayed. And I thanked God for the honor of helping pastors join me in learning to live and lead in Jesus’ Rhythm of Life.