I hear, echoed in the cavernous halls of my mind, the reverberating sound of an iconic commercial that asks a simple question and speaks to my heart: “Wanna get away?”
Of course! We all want to get away on occasion. There is a need in each of us to find that place of rest, that singular location where no one can find us and, unlike the “Cheers” theme song, where nobody knows our name.
Those get-away locations are as unique as the pastors who seek them. I have a few of my own—private places where I can disappear and find a moment of rest. But what about those places to avoid? That’s what this list is all about: the top five places to avoid if you actually want some time to yourself.
In no particular order these are my top five places to avoid if I want time to myself. Let the countdown begin!
- The Local Coffee Shop
Now, I love coffee as much as the next guy. Okay, who am I kidding – I love coffee a whole lot more than the next guy! And in my rural community there is a marvelous little coffee shop that is friendly, warm and brews up the best mocha-lattes this side of the Pecos. However, I have never actually spent time there without it becoming a ministry encounter. Though the natives are friendly and conversations lively, it is not a place to be by myself.
- Going Out with a Church Member
“Hey, pastor,” the church member said, “you need a break. Let’s go out fishing on my boat so you can get some time away.” It sounds marvelous. Having grown up on Puget Sound, I always enjoy relaxing to the gentle rhythm of the waves as the Northwest sunlight glitters like diamonds on the water. But the moment we’re away from shore, with fishing lines cast, I hear that inevitable question, “Pastor… can I talk to you about something?” I gaze out over the bow of the boat and begin to wonder if in just a moment there might be one more story of a man walking on water.
- The Closest Golf Course
Oh, the stereotype! I know, not all pastors golf… but this one does! I enjoy a round of golf almost as much as any other activity. But, on my home course, they all know me there. It usually makes for great conversations and wonderful bonding with those who need to know Christ, but it does not bode well for solitude. So, whatever recreational activity you enjoy, know that if you go to the place you normally frequent, you will not be at a place where you can spend time by yourself.
- The Nearest Wal-Mart (okay… or mall or shopping center or Cabela’s, etc.)
I’m sure by now you get the point that going to the nearest anything is not conducive for spending time by yourself. Now, for me, I hate shopping. As far as I am concerned, it is a necessary evil that takes place in the cycle of life – one that I am eager to hurry through. I go to the store like a hunter in the woods. Find your target, get your prey, and get out. But I mention it in this list because there are those who enjoy the slow and methodical pastime called shopping. However, despite my rapid pace in the nearest Wal-Mart, I have rarely been there without bumping into someone who knew me.
This might seem the ideal place to vanish from the public eye, but not for all of us. Many of us are in a single-staff church—and we’re the staff. The church building is small and the office available for the pastor is not much more than a converted closet. Because of this, you work at home more often than not. And so, home is work, it is ministry, and it is the place where everyone knows they can find you—and they do. This might be, in fact, the number one place to avoid if you are hoping to spend time by yourself.
There you have it. My top five places to avoid if you want time by yourself. We all need that time, even as Jesus said to His disciples:
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ~ Mark 6:31 (ESV)
So, what is your one place to avoid in order to spend time by yourself?
Michael Duncan is a multi-published author, including From Vision to Victory and Shadow Remnant. He is co-host on the Alive in Christ radio network and serves as a pastor in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. He is a keynote speaker and conference presenter and can be contacted at authormichaelduncan.com or you can follow him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MichaelDuncanBooks.