Just as I laid my head on the pillow early on a Saturday night, I heard the text notification sound loudly on my phone. I was annoyed with myself because I had forgotten to move my phone and charger back to my office or turn off the sound. I know the best practice for me is to keep my phone away from the place I rest, and I Iet out a deep sigh as I rolled over to at least turn off the sound. That’s when I saw it was from a mentor and friend of mine, and I opened it.
“Praying for you this weekend. Many of the pastors I know are bushed–all the regular stuff, plus a building lockdown with no weekend services or in-person meetings, plus the pressure of figuring out how and when to regather on weekends, then a country blown up with strife and riots–it’s a lot of weight to carry. I’m praying the Lord will refill you each–with strength, with peace, with grace, with wisdom. Blessings, my friend!”
This mentor-friend had been a local church pastor, among other roles, for more than five decades, and now he pastors other pastors like me. He had coached me in leadership and preaching, but it was always most evident that he was concerned for the condition of my soul. He was intimately acquainted with the desperate need for refilling in certain seasons of ministry. As I read his words, my mind went to the apparent suicide of Darrin Patrick in May, and the suicide of Jarrid Wilson last fall. These pastors were well known in certain circles of the Christian world, but there are so many others suffering silently all the time. Then add to all of the normal burdens of pastoral ministry the extra weight we carry during this pandemic season and undeniable racial unrest. Even the most ebullient of us “are bushed,” as my friend described it, and need refilling.
As a new lead pastor in my first year, I came into a church body that was discouraged after a long transition and I was experiencing a high level of burden to bring hope and expectancy to our people. I was often drained and my own rhythms of self-care and restoration for my soul were in need of recalibration since the job change and move to a new community. In certain times of worship, I had experienced the sense that I was gulping the Holy Spirit like a parched soul, and I hoped that would quench my thirst for a time. But when the church building closure and stay-at-home order happened, I remember telling my spiritual director I couldn’t seem to “get ahead” of that need for filling. I knew I needed more rest and retreat from the constancy that this season was requiring, but I just couldn’t see when or how to take that break. Isn’t that the reality: leaders don’t get to “take a break” in the midst of the crisis? It seemed the best I could do was day-by-day to turn to God and get through the day.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions” (Exodus 16:4).
Go each day and gather enough for that day.
I have seen the abundance of the Lord in terms of blessing, provision, and spiritual fruit for me and all around me. I’ve celebrated God’s goodness with his people and been in awe of his glory and lived these seasons when soul care was barely a thought because I was so filled with joy and the reality of his loving presence. But the seasons change, and the question in front of me was a question that comes before all of us sometime: Will we be faithful and obedient to go and receive from His hand, even if it’s just enough? Will we live in loving gratitude for how He is faithful to provide what sustains us, especially when we couldn’t sustain ourselves?
“When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” (Exodus 16:14-20).
Even soul care, which sometimes is presented like this ethereal or maybe even passive process of being restored in the presence of God, requires effort and obedience. It’s not always easy, especially for leaders, to get into the presence of God in a way where we can receive from him. Sometimes we are too busy being like God for people, feeling the burden to lead them through and provide for them … at least until they grumble at us and we go before God to finally say we can’t take it anymore like Moses. Sometimes we feel ashamed that we are so dry or so doubtful or so discouraged because we are the ones who teach other people about the goodness and abundance of God. Sometimes we grumble at God that leadership is too difficult to receive “just enough” in return, and wonder when we get to arrive in that land of milk and honey with a grateful people.
Of course, the disciplines of word and prayer and personal worship must become the day by day priority to gather what God provides straight from heaven, and if we put other things first we often find the opportunity evaporates like manna in the hot sun. Some days, especially in these last three months when I’ve been tempted to let the tyranny of the urgent rule my life, I relied on devotional reading and prayer points crafted by other people that came straight to my in-box. At other points, I had to reach out to praying friends and ask them to pray for me that I would be faithful to put myself in a posture of receiving from God because I felt so empty even after “quiet time.” Some days, I realized I needed a time of lamenting, singing, or travailing in prayer, and it was anything but a quiet time. Through it all, the voice of the Spirit kept whispering, “I will rain down bread from heaven, and it is enough for each day.”
As I returned again and again to the story of God’s people and their wilderness experience, I was convicted as I was reminded that “just enough” with God always includes rest for our souls:
“On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much — two omers for each person — and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, ‘This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’” So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it … Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.” (Exodus 16:22-24,29-30)
I have been learning in this season to give thanks for enough for each day and experiencing how He blesses my faithful obedience with the opportunity to rest in His holy love. It’s been proven yet again that God’s grace is indeed sufficient for me; the bread of life sustains my soul. This doesn’t keep me from longing for days of abundance again soon for me and my church family, yet undoubtedly, a key part of our soul formation comes from the forced process of being dependent on the Lord for enough. This is how the Spirit teaches dependence on the Lord for the days when we won’t have to be, but will choose to be so He receives all the glory.
About the Author
Kaye Kolde is a beloved daughter of God who also has the privilege of being a wife, mom, and Lead Pastor at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church. She first met Jesus in her early 20’s and her calling to vocational ministry came in her mid-30’s when she was primarily a stay-at-home mom. Kaye is passionate about seeing lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and then offered in pursuit of advancing the kingdom of God. She loves to teach and preach and help churches re-imagine their discipleship strategies. On a day off, she’d most like to be hiking and listening to worship music or enjoying good coffee with friends.