The Low Fuel Light is on. Do you refuel? Or push the accelerator?
Ok, it's confession time. Which type of person are you? The person that puts gas in your tank when you have around a 1/2 or 1/4 tank? Or the type that sees the low fuel light as an invitation to explore uncharted territory? I remember pushing that limit a few years back with my cousins from out of town. We were picking up another family member from the airport and had about 7-8 miles left before hitting empty. We figured there would be plenty of gas stations between the airport and our destination. Instead, we passed up a couple and ended up on the freeway. Watching the gas meter seemingly hit zero is quite an emotional mixture of axhiliration and fear. We got off the freeway and pulled into a gas station right as we began to run out of gas.
It felt very similar to this short clip from Seinfeld, with Kramer taking a dealership salesperson for a low fuel thrill ride...
Why is it so hard to slow down and refuel? I mean really, it doesn't take much to just pull over and put gas in the car. It's far less effort than it is to get the car started back up after it runs out of gas.
I ask myself this question often on a personal level. Why is it so hard to stop and rest? Resting is like refueling my soul, yet I'd rather push the limits like Kramer and let the low fuel needle break off. The problem is that in real life, we don't get the luxury of cutting to the end credits before the car runs out of gas. Instead, we crash and burn, and have to walk 5 miles with our little red gas gan that holds just enough to get us back to the gas station we chose to drive by.
Running On Fumes
Just like our vehicle warns us with a low-fuel light, we have some built-in indicators to warn us when we are running on fumes. I could make this detail list of symptoms as a result of poor rest habits. Instead, I'll just show you this incredible 3 minute clip from the Netflix series, Daredevil (notice the exhaustion that begins to build starting around the 1:19 mark).
Daredevil Season 1, Episode 2 - Hallway fight scene. Courtesy of Netflix.
It's clear right from the beginning that Daredevil is exhausted. His body is beat up, he has numerous wounds, and he just needs to rest and recover. Yet, driven to save the life of a young girl, he throws himself into battle. In this case, Daredevil is still able to conquer the bad guys and save the young girl. However, had he encountered enemies of higher skill level, he would have been overmatched and easily defeated.
In order for us to serve and lead at our maximum capacity, we must learn how to rest.
Rest? Or Laziness?
Rest is something I really struggle with. Don't get me wrong, I rest just as much or more than the average person. But too often this rest is the Al Bundy form of rest which is basically plopping in front of the tv often enough that the couch begins to form fit around my rump. But binge watching Arrow on Netflix isn't restful. It's just lazy. I know this, but my brain still equates it with rest.
So the reason I struggle with rest isn't because of the hours spent resting. It's because of the quality of rest. The rest I can often settle for is the spiritual and emotional equivalent of feeding my soul a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. It tastes good until your teeth start to ache and you get high blood pressure from all the sodium.
Instead, real rest incorporates the physical, emotional, and spiritual. It's rest that energizes and replenishes our soul. For some it's as simple as reading, praying, or journaling. But for others, it incorporates being out in nature, traveling, reading a book, or playful activity. Spending a morning at a park or scenic spot on Hines Drive refuels me. I'll bring my man purse with a book, my journal, and a bible. Sometimes I just sit there and listen to the sounds of nature (the real kind, and not those John Tesh style nature CD's from the 1990's). Other times I'll read and journal about what I'm learning.
One helpful discipline I've been practicing is mindfulness. My counselor and I have had regular conversations about opening up my mind and noticing the information that each of my senses collect (I lack the ability to see Bruce Willis, so I'm limited to just five). "What do you see?" What do you hear? What can you smell?" This process slows my mind down and encourages me to be present in the moment. Every time I do this, I feel rejuvinated and so peaceful. But it is definitely a struggle to slow down and disconnect from the business and distractions of 21st century life.
I think that poor rest is what separates those who fully live into who God has made them to be, and those who's leadership capacity stays at the level of a 6 year old in the backyard sandbox trying to teach his friend how to make a sand castle.
This is my conviction right now. I know that I'm wired to be a leader, and that I have certain passions and visions for what I'd like to do with my life. Yet, I also know that unless I diminish the Al Bundy rest and build in additional soul-replenishing rest, these dreams and plans will go undeveloped. My capacity will remain similar to Daredevil's, and I'll never realize my full potential as a leader, a husband, and a man.
Vulnerability Requires Rest
Commiting to a life of vulnerability means we will get hurt, exhausted, beat up, and depleted. When we are vulnerable, we increase our chances to get hurt or exhausted. We get these little knicks, cuts, and bruises. It's like the chips in the windshield you get from those little annoying pebbles as you drive on the freeway. We give of ourselves, meaning we deplete our energy source. We are exposed and now we just need to slow down, rest, and replenish. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves stalled out on the side of the road, out of fuel and unable to continue on our journey.
There's a verse in the Bible that helps me remember the value of rest:
"Come to me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, for I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
It's a great reminder to slow down and bring all the worries, concerns, burdens, and hurts to God. My shoulders were never designed to carry such a load. And without that pressure, I can just sit and take a deep breath. I can find rest.
Join The Conversation
Is rest a struggle for you as well? Do you have difficulty slowing down to recharge? Do you run on fumes? Has bad rest habits prevented you from growing and realizing your potential? Or maybe you've developed some strong rest habits that you can share with others.
Share your comments below or contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.