By Rob Hurtgen
Just past the city limits of the town where I live is a section of land dedicated to river overflow. To someone just passing through, the vast area looks like wasted space.
Nothing of redeemable value grows there. No one lives there. The overflow is an area of trees and grassland designed to catch the nearby river when it stretches out of its banks during the spring and fall floods.
The overflow is a dedicated space to capture what cannot be contained in the typical margin of the river banks.
Just like the river, you and I need to create a dedicated overflow space in our lives. Space for when our lives are flooded—and as pastors they often are. We will drown if we haven’t designated some space to breathe.
You need to create overflow space for rest in your life for three reasons.
you are mortal, not mechanical
There are certain devices in our lives we expect to run without ever shutting down. Refrigerators. Water heaters. Sump-pumps. If these devices ever shut down, food spoils, showers are cold, and basements flood.
But we who are created in our Creator’s image are not cogs and widgets. We’re flesh and blood. We bear the mark of our Maker. We carry the breath of our Designer in our chests.
We need time to rest. Designing overflow space to rest and relax is a declaration that we are so much more than what we do or create.
you will have unexpected interruptions
A lot of life happens between start and end. No matter how well you plan your week and schedule your time, there will be matters in your day you never saw coming.
My wife and I needed to make a doctor’s appointment for one of our children. We expected to have made the appointment a month to two out from the day we called to schedule the appointment. When we called at one morning at 8:15, we were shocked they asked if we could come at 10:30 a.m. that day.
We said yes!
But there were two problems. One, the doctor’s office was a two-hour drive away, and two, the car’s fuel gauge was on empty. Immediately, everything scheduled for that day was tossed.
Thankfully, I was able to shuffle some appointments and move some responsibilities into the already scheduled overflow space. We were able to get to the doctor’s appointment on time and all the important matters for the week were still accomplished.
If some overflow space hadn’t already been created, some important matters would’ve been left undone.
you need to remember to play
We are too serious. Even our play is too serious. The professionalism of sports has been around since before the first Olympics, but in our day of information overload, every play has statistical analysis attached to it.
We know who made the best play and when and how close someone is to doing better. Some who play fantasy football have spreadsheets so complex they give the appearance the person is invading a small country.
Those same fans are often torn between rooting for their favorite team or rooting for their fantasy player who just so happens to be playing against their favorite team that day. When did making spreadsheets become an ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon?
The core of the word “recreation” is to “re”-“create.” We’re renewed in play. Silliness restores. If creating spreadsheets restores you, fantastic. If tracking details of a players abilities or inabilities brings joy to your life, wonderful. If sitting by a campfire and slowing down refreshes, to God be the glory.
I want to encourage you to escape the frenzy, hurriedness, and interruptions of the beeps, pings, and buzzes that have become acceptable intrusions of our 24/7 age. By intentionally scheduling overflow space, we create room for all those important things to get done and all while leaving time to remember to play. Rest. To be restored.
Creating overflow space is not something I’ve always done. I used to fill up every corner of my calendar. What I found though was when the unexpected floods came, I drowned.
After at least three seasons of burnout and experiencing a couple of panic attacks I have no trouble creating an overflow space.
Sometimes I have trouble keeping it. Sometimes I have to step back, reevaluate, and recreate the overflow space again. But I know it’s critical to have, and even more critical to keep.
When I began creating overflow space in my life, I actually started enjoying my life and ministry more. I actually felt like I was more effective in life and ministry.
I started sleeping better. Started laughing more. That angry guy I was becoming seemed to disappear. But sometimes he shows back up.
When he does, God the Holy Spirit reminds me where the overflow space is in my life. I’ve found that the ground of the overflow space is incredibly fertile for growing the fruits of the Spirit.
Pastor, that blank space on your calendar is not wasted. The blank space is not waiting for you to fill up with something just because every space has to have something.
Keep an overflow space. Plan to meet with Jesus there often, and be refreshed. Be renewed.
ROB HURTGEN (@robhurtgen) is husband to Shawn, father of five, pastor of First Baptist Church Chillicothe, Missouri, and doctoral student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs at https://robhurtgen.wordpress.com.