Christian Living


Selah for a Busy Pastor

man relaxing at watersideby Bill Gaultiere

Soul Shepherding Moments, © 2013

Kent complained about having too much to do and being tired of rushing around all the time. He thought that his hurried, overcrowded life was inevitable for him as a pastor who had a family and lived in Orange County, CA in the 21st Century. But being an adrenaline addict in recovery myself, I knew better! So I spoke the truth in love to him, “I think you like being in a hurry and doing so much. Maybe the feeling of urgency and importance energizes you. And besides it drives you finger-drumming, foot-tapping crazy when you have to wait for people!”

Kent was ten minutes late for his meeting with me again. He tried to make a joke of it, “I’m sorry. I guess I need 25 hours in my day!” Invariably he ran late for meetings and events because he was always trying to squeeze one more thing into his day.

Kent disagreed with me. I just smiled and left the matter in God’s hands.

Pastors and All who are Busy Need More Margin
After a number of weeks of talking with me about his anxious pace of life Kent realized that he needed to make a lifestyle change. To be more present for his family and to enjoy more of God’s peace himself he would have to prostrate his productivity before the Lord. To appreciate God’s grace moment-by-moment he would have to slow down his speed. Kent needed to learn to live with margin.

Just as a page like this one has margins of white space around the edges, between paragraphs, and even a little bit between the lines and words so also our lives can have spaces…

Margin is about saying no. It’s about saying no to a culture that rewards busyness and being overextended. It means saying no to your own desires for self-importance. It requires being able to say no to the expectations and needs of other people.

Kent asked me, “Can a pastor say no? Who else is going to care for that needy person? Isn’t selfish for me to protect time for my own relationship with God and my own soul care.”

Nobody had more responsibility and stress than Jesus but watch him in the Gospels. You see that Jesus Set Boundaries. The Son of God lived with limits! The Savior of the world commonly said no to what people wanted him to do! So why do we who are leaders or caregivers think that we shouldn’t have boundaries?

In the Bible Margin is Spelled: “S-e-l-a-h”
The word for margin in the Bible is Selah. 72 times the Psalmist prays or sings Selah – often right in the middle of a sentence! Selah probably means, “Pause to reflect in prayer.” Selah is an unhurried space to breathe and to appreciate God’s loving presence.

To learn to practice Selah Kent started scheduling less in his day so that he could arrive early for meetings and use the extra few minutes to take a breather. Well, as you might imagine (and perhaps as you can sympathize!), at first this was very difficult for him! He kept being late even though he tried not to be. And when he did arrive early he was quite uncomfortable: his body was restless, his mind kept running through lists of things he needed to do or problems he needed to solve, and he felt resentful that someone was making him wait. (Previously it had not occurred to him that his habit of being late was putting other people in that situation!)

Here are some other ways I helped Kent learn to live by Selah:

  • Don’t be too quick to commit to help people — pray first
  • Don’t overfill your day with appointments, projects, or errands
  • Give your spouse (or a best friend) the power to speak into your weekly schedule
  • Set aside a weekly Sabbath day in which you do no work of any kind (for pastors this wouldn’t be Sunday)
  • Turn off the television or computer to sit quietly
  • Schedule breaks between activities
  • Drive slower on the roads and make your car into a sanctuary for quiet meditation on Scripture and prayer
  • Walk slowly enough to feel the sun, see the flowers, hear the birds, and say hello to people!

Kent’s life change could be summarized in the “Simplifying Breath Prayer” from Psalm 46:10 that I taught him: “Be still and know that I am God… Be still and know that I am… Be still and know… Be still… Be.”

Reprinted with permission from SoulShepherding.org 

 Bill Gaultiere, Ph.D. and his wife Kristi Gaultiere, Psy.D. are founders of Soul Shepherding, a 501c3 nonprofit ministry. As counselors, spiritual mentors, speakers, and retreat leaders since 1987 they facilitate intimacy with Jesus for pastors and all kinds of ministry leaders from around the world. Bill is the author of You Can Live in Jesus’ Easy Yoke. You can sign up to receive his soul care messages by e-mail, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn.


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