What comes after intense spiritual output?

Last weekend was pretty intense for me. We had a youth group retreat for Chatham Community Church, our first ever (I think). I wanted our adult leaders to be free to focus on the students, so I took a lot of the up-front leading onto myself. Here's what that looked like: four sermons, emceeing, leading a small group and an extended Q&A. I worked hard to prepare, but still left feeling drained.

So, what comes next?

I found myself feeling unusually joyful and unusually upbeat, the tremendous joy that comes from talking about God and his love for us. I wondered if I shouldn't just roll into my next week like it was a normal week.

But then the wheels started to wobble and threaten to come off.

It started with my body. Aches and pains. Hunger. Difficulty focusing. Difficulty staying awake. If I wouldn't slow down voluntarily, I would slow down involuntarily.

Right behind the physical consequences came spiritual consequences. I found myself tempted to dishonesty, rage, gossip and gluttony. Temptations crashed on me like waves on the seashore.

What could I do?

This wasn't the first time I've encountered this physical and spiritual hangover after a retreat. I can't think of a single retreat when I haven't had some sort of physical and spiritual crunch on the other side of it. What I can remember are countless retreats and conferences when I didn't plan for recovery time on the other side.

I've learned over the years to recover on the other side of intense spiritual output.
  • I took the week off from walking and weightlifting. Instead I focused on stretching and sleeping. I wanted my body to recover.
  • I read The Martian by Andy Weir. I wanted to unplug from the working side of ministry.
  • I took a morning off to reconnect with my family. I know that my healthy, authentic self is my "self in community."
  • I took a personal retreat day which involved silence, Chicago-style pizza, reading, prayer, journaling, Bible Study, and serving others. I wanted to refill my spiritual tank and give space for my soul to stretch and run.
  • I kept my Saturday introvert morning. I know there's a difference between rest for recovery and rest for preparation.
How do you recover on the other side of intense spiritual output?

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