The first cassette tape I ever owned was Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down.” I remember getting a boom box with that cassette like it was yesterday. I’m not really sure why this was the first cassette, but it really made me a fan of Lionel and his music. I even became a fan of his earlier work with the Commodores. Recently he even partnered with country singers on an album, “Tuskegee.” More than once I have found myself listening to Spotify and the song, “Easy” has come up in the play rotation. On Tuskegee, he sings “Easy” as a cool duet with Willie Nelson. It is a song that expresses a man’s belief that a break-up is not the worse thing in his life, and rather than feeling depressed by it, he is “easy like Sunday morning.” The reference is to the fact that small towns get slow and easy on a Sunday morning. (He grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama.)
I love “Easy” as a song. It has a cool melody and the idea of a break-up not being the end of the world is a very different attitude than many other songs. Still, every time I hear “Easy”, it gets in my craw. As a pastor, Sunday mornings, while a blessing, are not so easy.
This past week following our World Communion Worship, I said to someone that I was ready to go and have my nap. The individual asked if I was that tired. My response was that I wasn’t physically tired but more spiritually. A conversation ensued about how each week I seek to pour my spirit into our worship. I view being a worship leader as a gift. Part of that gift is to be one who leads by example. I love praying, singing and preaching. Weekly I try to give my all to God in the midst of that activity. With all due respect to Lionel, it is not easy to do. To make oneself vulnerable, and pour yourself out in front of God and the gathered community, is hard and scary.
The conversation about pouring oneself out led us to the discussion of the fact that everyone is called to do this. It is true that we are filled in worship. When we gather, we are blessed with a spiritual blessing that fills voids in our lives. The truth of the matter is that this isn’t the primary focus of worship. The Westminster Short Catechism reminds us that our chief end, that is what we are created for, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. To give glory to God calls us to offer everything we are in service and praise. To do so means we empty ourselves at every chance.
We all know that if all we do is empty ourselves we will find that we have dried up. This is where my nap comes in. Each week, after I have spent time with the community trying to give God my whole self, I know that I need time to refill. For me, shutting down and taking a nap is part of that. I also spend the rest of my week ensuring that I have refilled my spiritual reservoir, not only so I can give my all on Sunday morning, but also the other days that end in y.
This is not just the work and flow of the Pastoral life. Each believer is called to do the hard work of pouring out the gifts of God into the world. Some people live a life that is all about emptying themselves for others. Giving, helping and serving their family, friends and the world is a central focus. This can at times be at the detriment of their own soul. Likewise, there are those who spend all their time getting themselves filled. This is true in the material and spiritual realties. There are many happy and filled Christians who have never shared the gifts they have received.
So then what are we to do? I suggest considering how we make our lives more fruitful rather than full. To be fruitful means we are both filling and emptying ourselves. To give of our spiritual gifts means we will at one time both risk giving of ourselves while also counting on God to refill us to overflowing.
I also suggest that you be attentive to the need for a nap. Have you ever been around an overtired child? They at one moment are both wanting sleep and fighting it. Droopy eyes and flashing anger often mingle as the child’s exhaustion takes over all thought. This is not the way we are called to live in our Christian faith. Jesus knew that there were times to be giving and healing. He also knew that sometimes he needed to retreat and renew.
- Are you pouring out enough of what God is filling you with?
- Are you too busy to let God fill you up with the living water that is Christ?