Friday, February 29, 2008

Riding the Time Off

Since becoming a pastor, the lifestyle choice I have struggled with the most has been the whole phenomenon of "time off." I've said before that pastoring is the quintessential "lifestyle occupation" that results in one never really being "off the clock." Even when driving, it remains easy to be at work (taking calls, concentrating on ministry meetings, eating on the way to church, etc.). In addition, days off are a matter of personal discipline since work hours are not fixed. Taking days off are difficult because there's always something to do. Sermon prep, pastoral mentoring, ministry education and execution know no limits either. If you wait until the work is done to take time away for personal recreation and refreshment, burn out is the inevitable outcome.

To combat this tendency, I've had to be more purposeful about recreation and setting aside work for short periods. The need is greater now than I've ever felt before. Seeing this coming when I first became a pastor, I began preparing last fall. In October I took the basic motorcycle safety course at the Honda Rider Education Center in Irving, Texas. Shortly after completing the course, I followed through and received my motorcycle endorsement for my driver's license. Having already assembled some of my basic safety gear, only the purchase of a motorcycle remained. This did not have to happen immediately though. I sought to patiently await just the right deal on a good first bike.

This week that desire was realized. The patience in saving the necessary money paid off and I was able to purchase a Honda Shadow Spirit 750. What a blessing! So far, I've only logged 80 miles on the various roads of Rockwall County (I'm not comfortable just yet commuting on Interstate 30). Nevertheless, those 80 miles are "time off." When riding, all attention must be paid to the ride, the environment, the traffic and the climate. There's no answering the cell phone, no fiddling with the radio, no drinking my coffee, no talking to passengers, no reading a memo, no eating lunch on the way to a meeting, and certainly no doing all this at the same time when writing in my Franklin planner (which is not an infrequently occurrence when driving the car). All other distractions must be shut out because of the heightened awareness demanded by the ride. All would acknowledge the greater vulnerability of the motorcycle rider on the road. The result is greater demand on the rider to watch everyone else like a hawk.

Riding is not all nail-biting danger though. On some of the lesser traveled roads around here, riding becomes a refreshing joy by allowing a feeling of interacting with the environment more. The beautiful scenery is closer that being "outside the window." As I rode Lake Terrace Road behind the church, I felt myself smile under the face shield. Even if whole days off are difficult to take considering the demands of seminary work and pastoral duties, I now have an opportunity to take "time off" whenever I need to ride somewhere. Amazing how the concept of "Sabbath" can translate into such simple solutions. I still need to discipline myself to take days off, date my wife and mentor my kids, but at least now little portions of "time off" can be accumulated with each mile riding.

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