Running on Empty - The Warrior's Journey®

Running on Empty

Author: Brendon O'Dowd, USAF (Ret.)

Wisconsin Guard rolls out on a convoy training mission in preperation for another deployment to Iraq. Photo by The National Guard is licensed under CC By 2.0

Have you ever had one of those weeks? The kids get sick, you and your spouse have no time to talk, the dog is tearing up your new carpet, and work commitments are stretching you thin. You are running on empty and you are not sure how much longer you can make it. You have nothing left in reserve and life doesn’t wait for you to replenish.

War Reserve Material (WRM) is mandated by regulation to ensure the military has what it needs, when the need is the greatest. It’s there to reduce reaction time and sustain our forces. It may be pre-positioned in strategic locations or packaged in a warehouse ready to be shipped in a moment’s notice. WRM is not to be used on a daily basis because it would leave the military vulnerable during war—which is our mission.

I am afraid that our current lifestyle choices are depleting our personal WRM and leaving us vulnerable to relationship problems and spiritual attacks. There are two key reasons for this. First, we spend far too much time on technology. I realize technology is a necessary part of our lives but honestly ask yourself how much time you spend on social media and binge-watching shows.

There are only 24 hours in a day and if we were to graph the amount of time we spend thumbing through social media or watching Netflix, we would probably be shocked. We have 101 excuses why we cannot give up social media (connection to family, friends, coupons, etc.) or binge-watching (it’s my only time to relax). But realize the amount of time we spend on these activities is depleting our emotional, physical, and spiritual WRM.

Second, we have come to believe that busyness is next to godliness. We sign up the kids for multiple programs for “their development”. Thinking it will only take a few hours, we commit to group activities but they end up requiring so much more time. We feel guilty if we don’t volunteer at the pet-shelter, installation activity, or unit function. While none of these activities are bad, they do require time, energy, and sometimes money. We are left with nothing and dip into our emotional, physical, and spiritual WRM.

The good news is there are ways to rebuild our WRM and it starts with saying “no”. That may sound foolish or even impossible but remember Jesus said “no” on occasion. In Mark 1:29-38,

Jesus spent all day healing people, including Peter’s mother-in-law, and the line showed no signs of letting up. In the morning, Jesus slipped away to pray at a secluded location. But His seclusion wouldn’t last long. Simon Peter and the rest found Him and rebuked Him saying “everyone is looking for you.” There was more healing to be done, and Jesus needed to come back and finish His work. Jesus simply replied, “let us go somewhere else…”. He said “no” to a long line of people because He knew He had other places to go.

“No” is a tough word to say to others, but there are times we need to say it.

Another way to build up our WRM is to make time in our schedules for silent reflection. We need to make a deliberate choice to turn off the TV and computer and put away the phone. Admittedly, silent reflection requires more than cutting off technology. It’s a commitment to remove distractions and focus on the right things. A scientist and philosopher named Blaise Pascal said that “I have often felt the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room…. In busyness we have narcotic to keep us from brooding and to take our mind off [being unhappy].”

Surprisingly, he wrote these thoughts in his book Pensees in the early 1600s! Busyness and distractions have always been powerful motivators because they give us a sense of purpose and belonging while helping us ignore more troubling issues. But they also cloud our judgment as to what is truly important. Finding time for silent reflection seems like one more item to put on your to-do list, but like food and water, it’s something we shouldn’t and can’t neglect.

We are in a spiritual battle and we must stand firm against all that opposes God (Ephesians 6:10-17). Standing firm includes having a personal WRM at your disposal, so don’t delay building up your reserves.

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