A friend and colleague of mine recently stepped away from social media for a time.  He is back now, I believe, with the ‘intentional interim’ time now completed.  Personally, I have not recognized the same issue for myself – though stepping away from ‘normal life’ (while not disconnecting from social media) is something that I am enjoying as I write this!

Many years ago Monica and I decided that holiday begins the moment we leave our driveway.  This means that we ‘stepped away’ at 4:15 a.m. on September 1, as we drove through multiple states (5?) on our way to Orlando – with stops in Orangeburg, SC and Ormand Beach. FL (Hi, Aunt Jean) on the way.  The plan is to ‘step back in’ to the office on Tuesday, September 14.

In years past, stepping away has meant minimal activity.  This year is a little different.  It started with 13 hours on the road, followed by an overnight visit with the matriarch of my family.  We then had a quiet day to ourselves. Which was followed the next day with a trip to the airport to pick up our three children and two granddaughters.  We 7 are living together in a condo for the week … pool time, meals, the other 5 spending a day away at Disney, a two hour drive to the gulf, and yesterday, the 7 of us spending a long (and wonderful) day at the Magic Kingdom.  The remaining days should be just as much fun.  No complaints – just ‘stepping away’ in a different way.

Stepping away – I believe – is both vital and varied.  Vital in that – while routine is extremely healthy and important – breaks from routines (planned and spontaneous) support routine and health in ways we often miss.  And varied in that, not only does it come in many different ways for me and my family, I know of others who step away in ways that make zero sense to me (but it is right for them).

This is a different time of the year for me to be stepping away, because upon my return I will have to land with both feet in a very busy time of the year.  Yet, I also believe God is using this time to prepare me for the time ahead.  The past year and a half have presented many unique challenges … and the 2-3 years ahead look to have a very different shape because of them.

So I turn again to God’s word to us through David.  “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!  For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! … I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. … Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.  For the Lord loves justice, he will not forsake his saints.  They are preserved forever.” (Psalm 37.1-7, 25, 27-28)

Stepping away is not a retreat from God’s Word or prayer.  Nor is it for the purpose of ignoring life’s issues.  Rather, it is a time that helps me to fret less about the challenges I face and the different opinions I encounter regarding life’s issues and how to address them.

Looking back, I dare not fret about those who have accused me of leaning too far to the left, or the right, or of failing to take a stand … nor about those who say I talk too much about the pandemic, or not enough … or how I create fear and dismay where it ought not be … or ignore the issues that really need to be addressed.  In fact, as I look forward, I anticipate the accusations are not likely to change … because stepping away from addressing life in this world and applying God’s Word of healing and hope to what ails us is what I am called to do.  Stepping away from the sting or the infection is not the answer.

Or, as a traditional African American spiritual put it, “There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”  In other words, while you may find me stepping away on occasions to find renewal and healing for my sin-sick soul, you can be sure that Jesus … with his forgiveness, healing, and hope … will never step away from you.

Stepping Away