It had been a particularly busy time. Joining a developing new leadership team at our local church had brought many challenges, a sudden proliferation of meetings and a much busier email account. Added to the responsibilities I already had at church this meant more to do, alongside the work I get paid for which suddenly (and thankfully) went through a busier patch. I’ve just turned 60, which is a psychological milestone however you look at it. Add to this extra pressure brought about by my wife’s shrinking income as she runs down her self-employed business and a spate of unhelpful and undermining criticism from a group of people who should know better and you have a recipe for…
Well, in my case, I soon started to notice the tell-tale signs of depression (I’ve been there before). Apart from rampant tiredness, overwhelming emotions, a nagging sense of shame and a desire to get away, I also found myself completely unable to get a perspective on the criticism, and increasingly withdrawing from social contact.
So…I started by laying down one or two responsibilities at church that are non-essential. We were about to go away for a family holiday to Paris (which in my fearful, out-of perspective state, I was dreading)…I decided that the holiday might at least give me the space to make a decision as to whether to withdraw completely from church leadership (and maybe from church…).
The holiday has happened now. It was wonderful! It was so good to share a week with the family (including one of my older daughters). For a week we were away from the depressingly cold weather of the Scottish Borders in a beautifully warm and temperate Paris. We walked a lot, which has done wonders for my physical and mental fitness, talked a lot, which got me off the carousel of despair and laughed a lot (our trip included some time at Disneyland, which I surprised myself by enjoying very much). Paris in the springtime is everything the songs say it is, and I enjoyed the buzz of busy city life.
I also read a really helpful book, “Diamond Geezers” by Anthony Delaney (don’t be put off by the title, the books great) which helped to restore my spiritual perspective and recover a sense of God’s calling and purpose for my everyday life.
So, I have returned in a very different frame of mind and, sorry critics at church, I won’t be penning my resignation from leadership anytime soon.
Wives have a habit of saying things you really don’t want to hear. As I commented on how much better I felt after the holiday, Wendy reminded me that for months I’ve been talking about how I believe God wants me to go away for some personal retreat, but I’ve been too busy to actually carve out the time to do it. As a result…everything has suffered. Like the foolish builder in Jesus’ story I still need to learn that “anyone who hears my words and ignores them is foolish like a man who builds his house on sand. When the rain and floods come and the winds beat upon that house, it will fall with a might crash”.(Matthew 7: 26-27).
I scanned the internet for somewhere to go away. I found a small cottage in Wales called ‘Encil’, which means ‘Retreat’…don’t mind if I do! Now booked, and looking forward to a week of solitude, prayer, walking and eating simply (thank you Wendy and Susie for letting me go!!xx).
Hearing from God…great! Doing what he says…