Call a Time Out

Call a Time-Out

By Andy Stanton-Henry

Thich Nhat Hanh tells a parable about a man riding his horse. He was galloping through the village, then the countryside, at full speed. As he zoomed past, everyone that saw him was impressed, thinking he must be a man on a mission. Finally, a person on the side of the road called out to him, asking “Where are you going?”

The man responded: “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”  

I’m starting to feel like that gentleman. We are approaching the holiday season and the end of the year. We’ve got roughly two months left in 2023. I look at my calendar and I can feel the horse picking up speed. Before I know it, I’ll just be along for the ride – attending events, finishing projects, traveling, etc.

Thankfully, there’s another friend on the side of the road. And as I zoom past, they shout to me: “Call a time out!”

Before we get into full gallop, maybe we should all call a time out. Maybe we need to get off the horse for a minute, catch our breath, and make sure we know where we are going and how we want to arrive. How do we want to finish the year – in our souls, in our families, in our organizations?

In sports, time-outs are limited and each team gets the same number. So they are used intentionally, strategically. Sometimes they are used to allow players to catch their breath. But typically they are used as a strategic pause — to reset, to shift the energy, to disrupt the momentum, to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Leaders are often reluctant to use their time-outs. Sometimes we don’t use them at all, until we are forced to take one due to a crisis or illness.

But maybe it’s time to take one – for the sake of your soul, your family, and your organization. Not as an emergency but as a strategy. To regather, reset, re-center. To make sure your team is on the same page. To make sure we can finish the year well (“well” as in effective and in the sense of wellness).

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote: “Pausing is not a sluggish repose. Pausing is also movement. It is the inward movement of the heart. To pause is to deepen oneself in awareness. But merely going further is to go straight in the direction of superficiality.”

I have written elsewhere about the value of practicing the prophetic pause. I also like Ruth Haley Barton’s description of retreat as “strategic withdrawal.”

However you name it, I invite you to call a time-out in the next couple weeks. And take some time to pause, pray over the remaining year, and position yourself (and your team or family) to finish well.