How did I get here? It’s a question I found myself contemplating as I lay in bed one summer night in 2013. I was at Camp, occupying the single bedroom down the hall from all the suites and shared bathrooms. It was private, quiet, and a bit isolated. The single bedroom was always set aside for the director. There was something about being in that room that struck me profoundly. I knew I was the director, but that bedroom sealed the reality in place. I was the director. Gulp. Again, I asked myself: how did I get here?
I had stumbled my way into leadership. I hadn’t expected to take on the role of director, but in the end, that’s what had happened. For two-and-a-half years, I was assistant director, and then in 2012, the reins were placed in my hands. 2013 was my first full summer on my own. I felt equipped, prepared, and ready for the role, but it was still humbling. I was responsible for 30-some people, and I did not take that task lightly. I was the one in charge, and I couldn’t deny the weight that reality carried.
For the next three summers, the camp moved forward under my leadership. I had some great staff behind me and a board of directors who desired to help, but even so, I felt very isolated in my leadership role. There was a great deal on my shoulders, and I felt responsible for every single decision that I made. I knew I had the ability to impact the lives of teenagers with disabilities, and I wanted each attendee to feel welcomed and appreciated. It may have been stressful and difficult at times, but every moment was worth it.
Then in 2015, I felt the first urgings to depart. At first, leaving didn’t make sense. True, I was stressed out and probably near burn-out, but I could hang in there for one more year, right? The answer didn’t come with a resounding clamor. Instead, I discerned that God was drawing me aside with a tender, loving call to embrace a time of rest with Him. But I wasn’t sure I needed or wanted to rest. Wasn’t I supposed to keep working and striving in service to Him? I was still a worship leader at my local church, but the idea of leaving Camp created a cavernous space inside of me. It would take a monumental effort to walk away from something that had become such a part of me over the course of six years.
I attended a conference for work a week before I sent my resignation letter in to the camp. I was still wavering in my decision, contemplating throwing the letter away and forgetting that I had ever written it. But at the conference, I met a group of disability advocates from Indiana, and my perspective shifted. They expressed that my role as director of Camp had been a positive chapter in my life, but they encouraged me to not be afraid to let it go. And when I let go, they told me, I needed to make a clean break. “Take at least six months to just focus on your worship leading,” they told me. “Don’t jump into anything new until you are truly ready to do so.”
Six months!? Six months of just leading worship and not much else? I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was a doer, server, hard-worker, someone who sought to hide my limitations through constant movement forward. I was almost sure that I wouldn’t be able to rest because I would be struggling to just keep still. I was fighting against something that was so inherently a part of me.
Well, more than six months later, here we are. I made it! I took the time away. I sought the healing that my heart so desperately needed. I went for long walks, read countless books, invested in relationships that I had neglected, and evaluated my priorities. Then the sabbatical began. Our pastor planned to spend three months apart from our church so he could take the time to rest and find new energy for ministry. That left me in a unique position. I may not be vice-president on the church board, but I am on the church staff, and this reality has given me the opportunity to step up in a huge way. When I became Music and Worship Director in 2011, I was timid, uncertain, and on the tail-end of debilitating illness. I wasn’t sure what leading worship looked like— only that I would be in a leadership role— working with the musicians and drawing the congregation into music and worship on Sunday mornings. I shadowed our pastor, did what I was told, and fulfilled my duties. I didn’t often step out on my own.
If this summer has taught me anything, I would have to say that I have learned how to rest and lead. I believe that my six-month sabbatical of sorts prepared me for my pastor’s sabbatical. It gave me the opportunity to embrace my leadership role more fully. It has drawn me into close relationship with some of the other musicians. It has opened a door to a humbling ministry opportunity that six months ago I never would have anticipated. I have interacted with other pastors and leaders, learned about different leadership styles, and been stretched musically beyond what I thought was possible.
At first I wasn’t sure if I could do it again. By that I mean, I wasn’t sure that I could strike out without a core leader in place above me. But I think my time at Camp prepared me to take my place in leadership. After my extensive time of rest and reflection, I had found a new dependence on God, and He was the Leader I needed to follow as I took my place in leadership during Pastor’s sabbatical. After all, everyone must follow someone. No leader can be isolated in his/her leadership role.
God knew I needed to find new energy before Pastor’s sabbatical, and perhaps that is why He drew me away from Camp when He did. He perceived a greater need— a desire for renewal so new life could spring up in the music department at FRC. I can’t help but think of a pivotal moment in one of the songs we do at the church. It’s called “All the Earth,” and even before the singers begin, there is a full-fledged “rest” in the piano part— a stopping point— just for one beat, but it is the best part of the song. It is a surprising moment when everything comes to a halt, and the other musicians await my nod to move forward. Then, right on the beat, the song resumes with obvious intention. But without that rest— that break— the song would be incomplete. The music would not resonate the same way.
“There is no music in a “rest,” but there is the making of music in it” (John Ruskin).
This is so true! The same is true of my experience in leadership and rest and the correlation between both. If we don’t take the time to stop, rest, and reflect, we just might miss the sweetest music yet to be heard. Let’s commit today to find that balance between working and striving and stopping and resting. Let’s find the music hidden in between.