withdrawalby Al Descheneau

No one likes a quitter. No one creates movies, operas, ballads or inspirational stories about men who turned-tail and ran.

We play with action heroes—guys who didn’t quit, who never let up. Men like John McClane from Die Hard and Dutch from Predator. Men who can take hit after hit, dispose of bad-guy after bad-guy, with aliens coming from everywhere, exploding buildings, walking over glass, covered in filth, bruised, bleeding, shot… and they just keep on going. Nothing stops them, and they never back down. Hoo-ah!

A lot of men these days live as though they are unstoppable machines. Here’s the problem: they’re not—and everyone from their doctor to their wife to their pastor keeps telling them so. Their response? “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Friend, that may be sooner than you think.

Everybody knows the importance of a good night’s sleep, and many know the importance of taking a weekly Sabbath. Most aren’t doing it, but they at least know they should. But here’s something you may not have considered—another kind of rest you should be taking—the “strategic withdrawal.”

Harried, hurried and hurting

Jesus knew what it was like to be under immense pressure. In a story that is told in Mark 3:6-16, Jesus was surrounded by crowds teeming with sick and demon possessed people who wanted to be healed, and religious and political leaders who wanted Him dead.

He was surrounded by need and conflict. Everyone wanted a piece of Jesus, and they followed Him all the way down to the shore to get it. Then it got out of control. The sick and hurting started losing their cool. “All who had diseases pressed around him to touch Him.” The word “pressed around” means to fall on or rush into someone—like a defensive line zeroing in on a quarterback.

The crowd was so desperate to get close to Jesus they started stepping on each other, pushing the weak aside and jumping out of the crowd to touch Him and be healed. Picture the crowd pressing forward, walking over the lame, diving at Jesus, backing Him into the water. His feet get wet, and then His legs as the horde presses ever forward.

Ever had that feeling? Where everyone wants a piece of you? Where you’re in deep and getting deeper? Most guys do. Crazy at work, busy at church and then it’s home to “I’m hungry!” “This broke!” “He hit me!” “Let’s play!” Aging parents, needy friends, commitments to clubs, associations and the church. Many of us are beyond maxed out. And it doesn’t stop after you retire… in fact, most retirees say they got busier.

Handling high pressure

So what are we supposed to do?

As with all things, let’s look to what Jesus did. He set up a strategic withdrawal. Jesus knew it was going to get crazy so He planned ahead. He gave orders for a boat to float along the shoreline so when things got crazy, He could get in and take off.

Do you do that? Do you purposefully build strategic withdrawals into the times when you know things are going to get hairy? When you know it’s coming…tax time, annual budget meetings, huge projects, major reports, weddings, funerals, travel…do you make sure to set aside some time to get away in the middle of it?

Probably not. Why? Because for most of us, it’s hard to stop. All-go, no-quit, git-rdone! In our pride we believe that we need to keep going because whatever-it-is will fall apart without us. It’s not true, and that thinking is making many of us sick. When the rhythm of life is beating too frantically, it’s not the time to Energizer Bunny your way through. It’s time to be wise and do a strategic withdrawal—Jesus Style.

What does that look like? Well, let’s start with what it isn’t:

  1. It isn’t a day off where you take care of your honey-do list;
  2. It isn’t a vacation where you go far away to a strange land and do new things;
  3. It isn’t party time where you distract yourself with fun and food;
  4. It isn’t lazy time where you veg out in front of a glowing box;
  5. It isn’t a sabbatical that you take for weeks at a time;
  6. It isn’t running away from responsibility, leaving others to pick up your mess;
  7. It isn’t an evacuation where you never come back.

A strategic withdrawal “Jesus Style” is a purposefully set aside time in the midst of a busy schedule where you walk away from work, get rest, connect with God and friends—and come away with new perspective. How do you do it? The same way Jesus did.

He planned it ahead of time. Jesus had the boat ready to go. This isn’t something done on a whim. It requires planning out where you’ll be, what you’ll bring, what you’ll eat, where you’ll sleep and how long you’ll be gone.

He left work behind. He could have kept working (and working and working), but He didn’t. He paddled away from a huge crowd of needy people who wanted Him to keep going. This is so hard! It is a remarkable act of faith to say, “Lord, I’m walking away with this undone. It’s hard for me, but I’m trusting that things won’t fall apart if I leave right now. You take over.”

He went away, but not far away. He got in a boat, went for a ride and sat on a hillside. He didn’t get on a plane and go to a hotel in Tahiti. He got out-of-the-way, but it wasn’t hard to get there. He didn’t need hundreds of dollars and two weeks off. A strategic withdrawal is short (half-a-day to two days) and inexpensive.

He took the right people with Him. Jesus had a strong private prayer life, but He also “called to Him those whom He desired.” This isn’t a time to bring someone you don’t know. It is a time to be open and honest with good people who really care, give encouragement, talk straight and pray meaningfully.

He came away with a plan. After some rest and time with His Father and good friends, He had a plan. He would choose 12 guys and spread out His work. Strategic withdrawal has that effect. Staying on a job for too long gives you tunnel vision and causes you to lose focus and run out of ideas. God built us to gain clarity and better understanding of our problems when we put the work down, walk away and breathe fresh air.

So think about when your next busy period will be and put a strategic withdrawal in your calendar today. Then stick to it!

Pastor Al Descheneau is a father of four who ministers and writes in the Ottawa area.

The article above was featured in the SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 issue of SEVEN magazine.

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