Back in the spring of ’81 I was going through a breakup with a girl that I thought I loved while living on canned corn and Kraft macaroni and cheese in a run down apartment with my two best friends who were in nearly as much distress as me. I tried to make ends meet by working as a waiter until after midnight most nights. At the same time I was taking a full load at the University.
I will never forget the night that I hit the wall.
My roommates were in their underwear squatting over an arena made out of TV trays watching the pet snake named Sinbad chase down and devour a mouse. I was on the couch with a copy of Dictionary of Philosophy trying to look up “deontology” and “Kant’s categorical imperative.” The first mid term in History of Philosophy, Hume to Kant was at 9:00 AM the following morning and things weren’t going well. I put the book on my face and closed my eyes to pray for some form of informational osmosis.
At about 1 AM I gave up and set the alarm for 7 AM.
Meanwhile a cheer went up in the living room. Sinbad must have prevailed over another rodent.
After what seemed like only a few minutes the alarm clock beside my head blasted me from my coma. Seven o’clock flashed in blinding neon red.
I staggered out of bed and headed toward the shower. Something didn’t feel right. I was so tired. It was as if I hadn’t slept at all. And it was still very dark outside. But then it was mid February. Maybe it stayed dark longer. Honestly, I didn’t get up at seven very often and if I did I wouldn’t have paid attention to the daylight.
I stumbled from the shower and fell onto the couch still dizzy with fatigue. My eyes blurred and refocused as words about David Hume ran together. I only had an hour until I would extraordinarily bomb an important mid-term.
Normally panic would have swept over me but my adrenal glands were as exhausted as the rest of my body. Something was wrong. I’d pulled long-night-cramming-sessions before but I’d never felt so bad in the morning.
After about 30 minutes of slugging through enlightenment eggheads I gave up. I can’t take a test feeling like this. Study or no study, I have to go back to bed. As I walked down the hallway I happened to glance into my apartment mate’s room and noticed his clock. It read, 2:30 AM. Huh? I walked into our room where my roommate was snoring. His clock read 2:30.
It took a minute for the cobwebs to clear. Those rats! They turned my clock forward and got me up at 2 instead of 7! I ought to feed them to the snake. But I’m too tired.
I made a 37 on the mid-term. 37! It stands as the lowest grade I ever made in my academic career. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. The curve was huge and moved my 37 to a 73. That was still too low. I was in danger of failing my first class ever but I was too exhausted emotionally, physically, and financially to muster the will to care. Something had to give. I went to my teacher.
Dr. Weir was one of those guys that looked like a philosophy teacher. Small frame. Giant bald head. Thick glasses. Three piece brown suit. But that’s where the similarities ended. He was brilliant yes, but he was also refreshingly compassionate.
When I finished my story Dr. Weir gave me this counsel, “Bill, with the curve you passed the test so it won’t count against you. Drop the course and start over next semester.”
His words were like water on a desert flower.
“Start over? You mean I don’t have to live with that grade? I can end this nightmare and begin again in the fall?”
“Yes, Bill, just take a break and start over next year.”
Dr. Weir saved me. Without History of Philosophy my schedule was manageable. I could survive the semester and get to summer. By the following fall my heart was healed and I was good to go.
I learned something in the spring of ’81. Sometimes you need to call time out, take a break, and start over.
Sometimes we need to take a break. This is true in life and it is true in ministry. I’ve heard pastors say, “I’d rather burn out for Jesus than rust out for the devil.” I don’t like my choices. Either way I am out. I think God wants us to stay in. And if that means taking a break to recharge and refresh then take a break.
Taking a Break isn’t the same as giving up.
Taking a break lets you refresh and heal.
Taking a break gives God time to work.
Taking a break can put things into perspective.
Mark 6:31 And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.”