Bob Tamasy: Trying To Run On Empty

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

What’s your dream car? A Mercedes, or a BMW? If you’re into sports cars, it might be a Porsche, Jaguar, or Maserati. (I’ve never seen one of those, other than on TV, much less drive one.) Maybe you imagine driving a Rolls Royce. I had a Rolls once – a “rolls-hardly.” My mechanic spent more time with it than I did!

Some time ago a friend and his wife went to a furniture store to buy some things for their home. While they were there, he registered for a drawing the store was having, then forgot all about it when they left. A few weeks later he received a call informing him they had won the grand prize, a new, right out of the showroom Cadillac! I’m not sure if that had been his dream car before, but it proved to be their perfect car for years.

There’s one common reality, however, about all “perfect cars”: Without gas in the tank, they won’t take you anywhere. You can sit in them and enjoy the new-car smell, fiddle with the buttons, and even move the seats back and forth. But when the fuel gauge is stuck on empty, they transport you nowhere.

The same holds true for us in everyday life. Many of us spend our days running so hard and so fast we practically pass ourselves on the highways. Moms transporting their children from school to one activity after another. Men and women fighting rush hour traffic to get to work, pouring themselves out for eight hours or more, then rushing home again so they can rest – and repeat it all over again the next morning. Families desperately filling their leisure hours in search of fun, wearing themselves out in the process. Then one day we wake up to discover our physical, mental and emotional tanks are sitting on “empty.”

In Europe it’s traditional – at least for those that can afford it – to go on holiday, taking as much as a full month off from the daily grind. Talk about luxury! They might have the right idea, but I often find myself feeling guilty taking one week off from my regular work activities. How could I possible handle taking four weeks off at a time?

Nevertheless the principle remains: Unless we judiciously and intentionally take time for rest and restoration, we’ll be like the beautiful car without a drop of gas in the tank. We might look good on the outside, but we’re never going to get to where we want to go.

No wonder promising employees suddenly lose their luster and cease being the shining corporate stars they once were. No wonder high hopes disintegrate into grim realities. No wonder marriages start to struggle, moving to the brink of failure. And no wonder once healthy individuals suffer sudden and unexpected physical calamities.

So what’s the remedy? If we don’t find it natural to take necessary pauses during the course of the day, the week, and the year, we need to schedule those times. We need to devote time for thinking, planning, and relaxing, as well as basking in our victories rather than bemoaning our inevitable defeats.

The principle of rest and restoration appears repeatedly in the Scriptures. In Psalm 46:10 God instructs His people, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In an earlier passage we’re warned against the tendency to plunge full speed ahead, thinking that perpetual activity will ensure achievement of our goals. It says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…. Wait for the Lord and keep his way” (Psalm 37:7,34).

The opening of the well-known 23rd Psalm uses the shepherd-sheep metaphor for affirming the importance of rest, of taking time to refuel our physical, mental, emotional – and spiritual – tanks. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul”  (Psalm 23:1-3).

In the gospels we find Jesus Christ, the Son of God, setting aside time to pause and regroup despite the urgency and brevity of His earthly ministry. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). After performing one of His miracles, Jesus dismissed the assembled crowd, sent His disciples ahead of Him and then, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray…” (Matthew 14:23).

At the end of the creation account, it states God the Creator found it important to take a break in the action. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2). To underscore that concept, one of the Ten Commandments God gave to His people instituted a day for Sabbath rest (Exodus 20:8-11). Unfortunately, today even devoted followers of Jesus tend to treat the Sabbath as just another day for frenetic activities or for catching up on work not yet completed.

God didn’t establish the Sabbath to be restrictive. Rather, like a car manufacturer that knows how best to operate its car, God knows how we function best. And it’s not by burning the proverbial candle at both ends and the middle at the same time. We need to pause, rest, reflect and restore. When we refuse, we do so at our peril.

* * * 

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs,, and He can be emailed at

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