Lent Blog - part 1 : Learning to stop

Lent Blog - part 1 : Learning to stop

11 March 2024

Learning to stop

I have four grown children, each of whom I was tasked with teaching to drive when they turned seventeen. It was a valuable and testing time in our relationship (!) and lots of lessons were learned along the way. However, the first and most important lesson they each had to learn was how to stop. There are many more interesting and impressive skills they would go on to develop as drivers, however none would be as vital as this one.

Afterall, imagine a driver who could cruise along a dual carriageway with ease and competence but didn’t know how to stop. They would eventually get so tired that they would fall asleep at the wheel and crash!

The church has various seasons in her calendar which invite us to stop, take stock and draw close to God. Lent, the season we are presently in, is a time of repentance and renewal; an invitation to reflect on our own frailty and need for God. The 40 days leading up to Easter begin with Ash Wednesday, when we are marked during the ashing service with a cross accompanied by the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

This sombre reminder of the mortality and frailty of the human condition is helpful for us all, for it is something we are prone to forget. The demands, pressures and pace of life can mean we can end up operating on autopilot; mechanically moving from one activity to another without much pause for thought or reflection.

Here at Emmaus Leadership, we recognise that there are many skills and competencies Church School Leaders need to hone and develop. How to communicate and delegate effectively, manage teams and conflict, strategise, organise and budget. Yet one basic skill underlies all of these - knowing how to stop. For unless leaders learn how to do this, they will eventually crash and burn out one way or another.

Another key lesson I had to teach my children when they were learning to drive was how to refuel. It didn’t matter what the capacity of the engine was, if they didn’t know how to fill the tank when the warning lights came on they were on a highway to nothing!

Again, the same is true of life and leadership. If we do not pay attention to the warning lights that come on when our emotional and spiritual reserves are running low, we can become vulnerable to exhaustion or the crisis of burnout.

In our next blog we will reflect on the prophet Elijah’s experience of just this, and the question that came to him in his wilderness crisis (1 Kings 18 & 19). However, this Lent I invite you to check and see whether you're able to stop before you end up in the same exhausted state as Elijah. 

You can do this right now, if you like. Why not stop and try to be still for 5 minutes? Become aware of your breathing and notice what is happening in your body. Sometimes even the attempt to do so can be very revealing. Most of us find that we are so used to life in the fast lane that it can be very difficult to be still and present to God and ourselves. Indeed, you may sense an immediate resistance to the mere suggestion of 5 minutes of stopping. Pay attention to that too. For learning to stop and take stock is no trivial matter at all. On the contrary, it can save us from crashing out or breaking down.


A very apt and reflective message this Lent to all Church leaders from Emmaus Leadership.
After stopping and being renewed both physically and spiritually during the Easter break we can refuel and move forward again. Happy Easter Liam and Thank you for sharing. Best wishes
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 22:11 by John McParland

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