I am the type of person you'd expect to get myself into part-time pastoring or bivocationalism or whatever you want to call it. I've always figured out ways to get the money I needed or do the cool thing I wanted to do. I've never been too risk averse when it comes to these sorts of things. I'll avoid bodily pain, but stress was never something I tried to get out of.
I guess that lack of stress aversion partially explains my willingness to start a church with eight people in my neighbors' backyard while simultaneously starting a small business. People tend to praise me for my ability to organize myself and get a lot done. I tend to view myself as pretty good at managing it all.
My whole team at church, including myself, was surprised when we compared Talent Today test results and I bottomed out on stress management. One kind co-worker took issue with the test and assured me that I was great at managing the stress I faced. As I looked at my graph, though, it dawned on me. I handle stress, but I don't manage it. I deal with it, but I don't ward it off.
This year something changed for the better. As an entrepreneurial guy, behind initiatives of my own design, I didn't build in space for refreshment and peace. This year I joined the Christian Reformed Church and its mission agency, Resonate Global Mission. One of the best gifts this agency has given me thus far has been the encouragement and funding to get away.
Last month, I joined several other go-get-'em type pastors for three days of relative silence, 36 hours of which were a "grand silence." We were flown far away from the temptations to work back home and planted among the Trappist monks at the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. The scenery itself encouraged peaceful reflection. I found myself open to the prompting of God's Spirit in ways I often don't experience. I sang aloud as the sun rose over a field of geese. I prayed aloud for people who had lied about me and done me harm. I memorized a Psalm that continues to speak deeply to the longings of my soul.
I am so grateful for the gift of a silent retreat and for all the folks that made it possible. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to build this in. The truth is, though, that I couldn’t do it alone. I don’t yet possess the discipline that leads one into silence or the resources to justify the expense. If I could go back, I’d look for a network of support sooner. I wouldn’t just look for support for the work I wanted to do, but support that would lead me into the care of my own soul that I didn’t naturally want to do.
Andrew Littleton is a pastor, small business owner, writer, and podcaster. He and his family live in Tucson, Arizona. This post was originally published on The Medium, as part of the “Part-Time Pastor” series.