Before we sold our minivan upon moving from Africa, my husband and I totaled up how many times we’d been hit.
The grand total: 16.
(That’s not us doing the hitting, to be clear.)
But there was more trauma, too. There was the time we were robbed. The time my husband got malaria. The time I was in an accident that had a fatality.
At one point I felt like I was so tired of all the pain and the work just to live overseas that I understood why people became kind of wizened and dried up as they grew older. My soul felt like it was living in dog-years–seven years for every single year lived on the field.
Spiritually feeding those around me sometimes felt it required scraping out the inside of my own ribs with a spoon.
Soul Rest, This Way
When it comes to caring for your soul, maybe you’re wondering, How would I even do that? Have you seen my life?!
But–as I attempted to make the case last week—God’s unique plan for your soul-restoration is more than recommended. It’s a calling.
Ministry amplifies our personal relationship with God: the whole, beautiful parts; and the separated, broken ones.
“It is absolutely vital to remember that a pastor’s [or global worker’s] ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart,” writes Paul David Tripp in Dangerous Calling.
As you look overseas, it’s critical to explore your “Rest DNA” in hopes of replacing rhythms of burnout with rhythms of healing and wholeness–so you can love God and people sincerely (Romans 12:9).
Restorative rhythms will involve steps like exercise, healthy sleep, nurturing time with your spouse and kids–and maybe seeing a counselor (in-person or virtually).
But don’t miss these other restorative rhythms, too.
Restorative Rhythms: Start Here
Living in Authentic Community
Finding genuine, mutual community overseas can be tough. But as Tripp continues, anyone in ministry is “a member of the body of Christ who himself desperately needs the ministry of the very body he has been called to train and lead.”
First Corinthians 12 reminds us we vitally need community for our own humility, transformation, and display of the whole person of Jesus:
If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable… (vv. 19-22)
You May Now Remove Your Masks
Choosing authentic community means doing life with people, our masks down–not just “spiritual” activities. Ruth Barton notes in Life Together in Christ,
[The men on the road to Emmaus] were not having a formal quiet time. They were discussing the stuff of their lives–all the things that had happened that were having such an impact on them spiritually and every other way–and something about the nature and quality of their conversation opened up space for Jesus to draw near. And the encounter that took place among them was completely reorienting and life changing…it becomes a transforming community.
With whom in your life can you regularly, completely take your mask down? Be loved, known, and nurtured? And nurture back?
Solitude, Silence, stillness
These disciplines help us pull away from attempts to define our identity by what we do, what others think of us, or what we have (like our reputation, control, popularity, or relationships).
Paul David Tripp reminds me, “If you are not attaching your identity to the unshakable love of your Savior, you will ask the things in your life to become your savior, and it will never happen.” This is a genuine temptation for any global worker: that our work or sacrifices or success will become gods themselves.
Solitude, silence, and stillness also offer space for discernment, rather than us making decisions out of knee-jerk reactions from fear, identity myths, or just plain being on autopilot. (Think of the story of the Gibeonite deception in Joshua 9, which kept Israel from taking the whole Promised Land.)
What God says to those who did all these things for him, driving out demons in his name: “Away from me. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23, emphasis added).
I’m not relating solitude to salvation. But those people who are God’s have something in common: He knows them, and “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10). This takes time–and the space to hear his voice.
Rest and Sabbath
As Mark Buchanan writes in The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God,
Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.
Mindset of the man too busy: I am too busy being God to become like God.
God associates rhythms of restoration and Sabbath with our freedom from slavery to work and all the other substitutes for our identity and worship.
What could these kind of restorative rhythms of Sabbath and rest look like overseas?
- Take “day of preparation” for your Sabbath, like the Jews maintained in the Bible. Perhaps ahead of time you make a crockpot dish or casserole to slide into the oven. Maybe you complete that one cleaning task that will drive you crazy if you’re looking at it and trying to rest.
- On your Sabbath, rest from hosting unless it’s life-giving.
- If you have a night watchman or guard on your property (who takes a different Sabbath), perhaps ask if you can pay him extra to wash the dishes that day.
- Refrain from shopping, social media, kids’ activities, and checking email on your Sabbath.
- Look forward to an activity you love.
- Because your church experience overseas may not be life-giving, carve out time for personal worship and fulfilling time with God.
- Take a vacation–and perhaps more frequently than you would in your passport country, or than you might let your supporters know about. (They likely don’t understand the needs of global workers.)
- Each day, mentally set a time on the clock when you’ll stop working and do something that replenishes you.
- Set up 5-10 minutes of space throughout your day to stop, take a breather, and reorient yourself to working in a wholehearted way.
Model a true Gospel–that God doesn’t love us for what we produce! Seek out critical restorative rhythms for the sake of your ministry…and your own heart.
Ready for more Restorative Rhythms?
Don’t miss Part II next week.
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Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.
Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts (Harvest House) released October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.