It’s true. I did it. I took 29 days off from my role as Pastor of Thrive Church. I also took 29 days off from social media. I also took 29 days off from constantly replying and checking my messages/emails/voicemails/texts.
And guess what? I lived! And, Thrive Church…
Let me tell you why I did it. Why I took 29 days off, consecutively. By the way, that’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this in 22 years of serving at Churches.
Here’s why I did it…
I let myself get to a very unhealthy place of life.
You don’t understand. I was drained. I was exhausted. I had nothing left. My tanks were beyond empty. I felt like a zombie most days. For 20 some years, I have worked hard. 50, 60, 70 hour weeks. I have traveled all over the country speaking. I have always tried to do whatever I needed to get the job done. Even when I was exhausted, I always had reserve energy tanks.
But, for the first time in my life, the reserve energy tanks were gone. The past 4 years of my life have been a wild ride. We planted Thrive. Which, that journey alone has been amazing and exhausting. After we planted, my already bad back went to def con 5 and then came back surgery. It took about 16 months to start feeling better. But, every day I experience some kind of pain. Whether it’s a limping day or not is up to the weather.
Then there is the day to day stuff of leading a Church. And, we have seen God move in powerful ways and we have seen satan attack the Church in crazy ways.
We also pursued the calling on our lives to adopt and that journey was both amazing and exhausting. Raising $35,000 and doing mountains of paperwork and the waiting and the going back and forth. Dealing with the people who don’t quite understand adoption and receiving some of their non emotionally intelligent thoughts.
This year started in China picking up Kai and bringing him home. It was amazing! But, after I got home, we knew that God was calling us to move locations and we started a major fundraising campaign at Thrive. And, every time you do something like this, satan seems to up the attack. Then, our Church moved locations. To a much larger space that was a miracle. And, every time you make a change, there are those people who either don’t come along with you or criticize every move.
Then, over the last six months, our family has been adjusting to having a new family member in our house and having another child with PKU and the costs associated with that.
I was spent. My normal tanks were depleted and my reserve tanks were long gone. I was leading and living on empty.
AND…ON YEAH, MY PEOPLE PLEASING WENT OUT OF CONTROL
You see, my name is Jason Raitz and I am a People Pleaser. Even the thought of saying NO to someone causes anxiety to well up. Not good for a Pastor. Because honestly, I have to say no a lot. In order to keep heading towards the vision God’s given us for our Church, I simple can’t say YES all the time.
And guess what?
I started to let a lot of people down. I let my family down. I let myself down.
I couldn’t fulfill all the YESSES! I dropped balls. I wasn’t fully there for my family. I slept a lot. I gained a lot of weight. I began to let worry and anxiety rule my life.
And then the chest pains came. They set up shop and decided to stay for awhile.
Lastly, not proud of this at all, but in my complete and utter exhaustion, I started to let bitterness well up in me.
What do I have to bitter about? Great question. I mean, God continues to bless my family. I love my Church, I love my staff team and I love my job. The Patriots won the Super Bowl!
Because I’m such a raving people pleaser, and since I spend quite a bit of time pouring and investing in people. When they up and disappear from Church, I take that very personally. When they say negative blanket statements on Facebook or to other people about our Church, I take that personally. When they head to another Church and never have a conversation with me or another staff member, I take that personally. When they look the other way in a grocery store, that hurts.
And, unfortunately, in my extreme exhaustion, I let all that bitterness well up and it started to take over.
I was no good to nobody.
Tracie and my parents were worried about me. I know the kids knew something was up.
That’s when Dr. Tom sat me down. And then Matt. And then Sarah. Some of Thrive’s key leaders noticed a difference in me.
Multiple people asked me if I was ok.
Honestly, in my exhaustion, I stopped doing the practices that helped protect my soul.
I stopped reading. I stopped my every morning prayer walks. I stopped seeing my counselor. I stopped working out. I stopped blogging.
I started to dream about working at Meijer’s. I mean, I would keep that parking lot clean! I could push carts and I would do it well! I started to wonder what a 9-5 job would be like. A job that I could leave and clock out and they weren’t going to call me if a grocery cart went rogue.
This is all embarrassing, I know. It’s probably too raw to write about and post. But, it is what it is.
So, I went to our Elders at Thrive to explain and ask for some extended time off and before I could barely pitch my presentation, one of our founders said…’yup, this is a no brainer’. Another said…’is this enough time, take what you need’.
Talk about being loved! Talk about being supported. Talk about being cared for!
So, the day after we got back from Big Stuf Camps, I started this 29 day journey. I’ve never taken a full 2-3 month sabbatical. But, I can see how after a month, you really start to do some healing!
My 29 days looked like this…
The first week I slept. No really. I slept a lot. I was utterly and completely exhausted. I also changed my cell phone number. This was recommended to me and this was a hard one to actually do. I did it. I know some folks probably thought I died.
But, in the midst of constant messages/texts/emails, we had a mix up with Kai’s medical insurance when he first came home and we now owe $6000! Its been a ridiculous mess! Anyways, not having the constant phone calls asking for those funds has been nice.
The second week our family went on a vacation. This wouldn’t have happened without some amazing generosity from some friends! We had a blast together. We went to DC. We walked the capitol. We stayed with friends. Saw family we haven’t seen in forever. The kids kept asking, you sure you’re not speaking somewhere? Hah!
The third week, I started to get back into my rhythm of prayer walks and I decided to walk an hour a day around the campus of Central Michigan University. It was a great week.
The fourth week, I tried to listen to my wife and kids as much as possible.
In these 29 days…
I started a new prayer journal. I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel and the book of Matthew.
I read ‘Emotionally Healthy Leader’ by Pete Scazzero. A must read! This book has helped me heal in ways I never thought was possible!
I re-read ‘The Circle Maker’ by Mark Batterson
I read ‘People Pleasing Pastors’ by Charles Stone
I saw my counselor and spent time with a mentor.
I went on a lot of walks with my wife and kids.
I talked to God.
I took 29 Days off and I survived!
28 or 38 year old Jason would have never been able to do this, but almost 42 year old Jason knew I needed this to replenish my tanks and for some healing to occur and to happen.
I’m thankful for my Church. I’m thankful for my family.
I’m expectant and excited for this next season of ministry!
Oh, here are a few photo’s from our trip to DC.