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I still remember the feeling of confusion as we zig-zagged across the golf course near our home in Florida. To me, the pattern made no sense at all. We’d go to what seemed like a random place on each hole, irrespective to the location of our golf balls, and my father and I would sit and wait for his friends to hit.
We’d just…wait. In what seemed to be a random spot, often far away from where our next shot was. Sometimes in these moments, he would comment on the sky, or the landscaping, or something else in life. Then, after a while, he’d take us over to where I thought we should have been the whole time – our next shot.
I had to ask why we were doing this. Even as a kid, I had a very process-driven mind – hit ball, find ball, hit ball again, repeat until finished. Boom. Golf. This random pattern of pausing and indiscriminate waiting made little sense to me. I had to know.
He looked at me and said these words that I’ve never forgotten – “Rudy, I’m always trying to keep us in the shade.”
As a kid, it didn’t make sense. Who cared about the shade? Let’s get to the next shot! I actually think I saw many things that way – in fact, until a few years ago, I think it’s how I saw ministry. Process-driven – just “get to the next shot.” The next event. The next meeting, The next _______. I’d forgotten the lesson my father taught me on that course – to always seek out the shade. To find moments to break, to rest, to slow, to stop, to pause, to recover, to wait. The shade as a place to just be with Jesus, in the middle of responsibilities that are as constant as the Florida sun.
Perhaps I didn’t forget my father’s lesson – maybe I just never learned it. Much to my own detriment, I didn’t practice seeking out the shade until several years ago when I’d worn myself out to the point of despair. As has been said before, the pain of staying the same had outweighed the pain of change – which turned out to exist only in my mind. It was one of the most necessary and life-giving changes, to have structured and spontaneous moments of just being in the shade. This last year, in the midst of everything that 2020 carried, I along with countless others again felt a deep need to be disciplined to continue to have moments to fight to keep myself and others in the shade, with the Lord.
I wonder if you have practices of staying in the shade? I think of these words in Psalms surrounding this:
Psalm 91:1-2 – “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 121:5-6 – “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.”
Three practical points regarding the shade:
- Structured and Spontaneous – We absolutely need structured rhythms of time with Jesus. Planned points on the calendar where we step away from the work of the Gospel to make room for the Gospel to do the work in us. There are also spontaneous moments when we just need to seek the shade – often when the sun is hottest, and the responsibilities are heaviest. It is here, in giving ourselves and others room to spontaneously seek shade during a busy season, that we are actually making a claim of trust in His ability above our own.
- Explain along the way – My father brought me into the shade, and then explained what was going on. I was benefiting from his practice without even knowing I was. You, Your family, and the people you lead with can benefit from what – in your mind – may seem like you are stepping away from the work at hand. Not so. In fact, it is here that you can be a blessing by explaining along the way what it means to seek the shade. It may be confusing to those around you – they may be like I was on the course, just wanting to move on to the next shot. Explain along the way, as you teach them how to seek out the shade.
- Relax into the Shade – I still struggle to seek out the shade in moments when my list of tasks seem unending. You’re likely like me – you actually don’t dislike that. In fact, you love it. It’s a joy, an honor, a privilege to get to do what we do. How could we pause? However, it is often in structured and spontaneous pausing in the shade that we who minister are ministered to. This is a practice – one which still feels difficult. Learning to relax into the shade, and not sit there with your mind fixated on the next shot, the next thing you have to do, is a practice of relaxing into the shade and shelter of God. It’s not easy, but for you, your family, those you lead with, and those you shepherd – it’s worth it.
Perhaps you’re reading this and you feel outright exhausted. I won’t pretend to fully understand your situation, but I’ll certainly sympathize with you and give a brief word of exhortation – I hope you give yourself permission this summer to find the shade, even and especially on your busiest days. To bring the people you lead into the shade with you. You’re not abandoning the mission.
You’re not compromising the call. You’re being like Jesus, who retreated often to desolate places to pray and be with His Father.
Let’s seek out the shade.