I’m one of those people who likes risk. In the past I had a habit of letting my gas tank go well below empty just to see how low it would go before it stopped. For a long time this worked well for me but one Sunday night I learned the hard way that there is wisdom in planning ahead.

One Sunday night some friends & I attended a special service about a one and a half  hour drive from home. I didn’t leave enough time to get gas on the way to the church and on the way home everything was closed.

I dropped my friends off at their home at about 11:45 p.m. and still had a half hour drive ahead of me. My friends were concerned that I might not make it home but I assured them that I had done this many times and there was nothing to worry about.

The night grew foggy and my tank got dangerously lower with every kilometer. I became apprehensive and started to pray. About 10 minutes from home my car started to sputter. Praying turned to shameless begging. The car stalled several times and started again each time when I prayed and I coasted small stretches at a time over the next few kilometers. I was just beginning to believe that I would make it all the way home when my car died.

I sat beside the road, out in the country, with no cell phone, no houses in sight and thickening fog. A semi-truck came barreling down the highway. I waved my arms frantically but, if he saw me at all, he didn’t pay any attention. I returned to my car, prayed desperately one more time for a miracle but it didn’t work. At least not the one I was praying for.

At that moment, in the distance, I heard the clip clop of horses’ feet. I waited. Moments later I found myself seated beside an Amish man, his girlfriend now perched half on his knee and half on my knee. They drove me several miles to a local business owned by a friend of mine. Fortunately their house was on the adjacent property and after waking them from their sleep and explaining my plight, they graciously gave me a tank of gas and drove me back to my car.

That was many years ago. I have never again disregarded my gas gauge to such a foolish extreme. I’ve taken my risks a few times but more because of circumstance than ignorance.

Spiritual life is just like that. Sometimes we give and give in ministry with complete disregard for our fuel gauge. If we paid any attention at all we would see the signs and take time out to fill up again but we get so caught up in changing the world that we either miss or ignore the signs.

Like my empty gas tank experience, I have learned the importance of refueling and spending time with my Source. When I don’t pay attention there is a price to pay. Banging on my friends’ door at 12:30 a.m. was embarrassing, to say the least. Yes, it saved my day and it was the only horse & buggy ride I ever enjoyed with an Amish couple, but it disrupted lives of people I care about.

Jesus knew the importance of taking time out and connecting with His Father. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed time apart, it is arrogant to believe we don’t.

Spiritual self care is an important part of effective ministry.

“Yet news of Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Luke 5:15-16