We along with many if not all are devastated at the lawless killings that have multiplied in the United States and elsewhere. Together we pray, “Lord have mercy!” My thoughts return to an earlier blog (What’s Going On?) from June 20, 2016 where we remembered God’s plan in Christ for this hurting world.
As pastors, professional church workers and dedicated lay Christians, we want to care for those who are hurting and work to make a difference. Especially in times such as these where the world seems to be falling apart. All the more then we are in need of a good work/life balance. “Why” you ask? Because taking care of self appropriately will enable us to be the best caregivers and representatives of Jesus’ love to others.
Contrary to what we often assume, we are not machines. God designed us to have a day of rest. We need “down time” to not only physically rest but also to have a psychological and spiritual rest from our labors. As people who often serve others, there is a very real syndrome called “compassion fatigue.” Without properly guarding against that, our fatigue can show up as discouragement, disillusionment, depression, complaining, blaming or just being grumpy. Then when that happens we may choose to address our ills in ungodly ways. So it is important to be self aware, knowing our capacity and the remaining margins for work and service.
Or to put it in an opposite way, just like machines, we need regular maintenance. Cars need their oil changed and the occasional part repaired or replaced while people need rest and recuperation. We need the distraction of play and vacation in addition to spiritual rest and renewal. These give us energy and a healthy perspective for long term functioning in the name of the Lord.
So where do we start? The subjects are simple and very familiar but rarely followed. Things like daily reconnecting with God, getting plenty of exercise and sleep, weekly worship and disconnecting from the demands of work. Then monthly retreats and annual vacations and periodic sabbaticals.
We know all that! So why don’t we do it? Three reasons:
- We don’t follow this sage advice because we think we do fine without it! Then we are self deceived into thinking that we don’t need it! All the while we travel down the slippery slope of fatigue - physically and spiritually. We figure we can give a few more hours. Better to finish the day exhausted than put up with those who would question our dedication or faithfulness. You know it’s true. We serve the god of overwork out of fear of criticism (from self too).
- Pride. Sometimes we also wear the “I haven’t had a day off in (blank)” as a badge of honor. A twisted sense of pride through overwork. Well, for me that’s the most troubling. Haven’t we already found our worth in Christ’s love? Why then do we need to prove our worth through some imagined competition about who works the longest? Pride also keeps us from delegating to others. They can't do it as well as we can and it takes too much time to teach them. Sure some weeks we need to “suck it up” and “just do it!” But that had better be the rare exception.
- Laziness. Sometimes the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” But let’s just call it what it is. Some of us are sometimes lazy. We go in late, we come home early. We excuse ourselves. We are in denial. We accidentally (on purpose) forget to return phone calls or emails. We practice work avoidance and blame it on being too busy. Maybe we over functioned in the past, resent it and don’t want to go down that road again. Maybe we rationalize our behavior because we say we didn’t get a day off last week or because we work on Sundays. But maybe it is also because we are just plain lazy and unprofessional. Do you need to own that?
Normal weeks need to be centered on God, meeting Him daily in His Word and speaking to Him about every thought, every decision, and every encounter. “Praying continually” (1 Thess 5:17). He is on your side! He is not a celestial task master. He wants you to have a break. He commands it! But that doesn’t give us license to arrogantly spit out our limitations and rules when turning down invitations or turning our backs on where we should legitimately serve, even on our days off!
You are really in charge of your own calendar. You can make the call. Decide on your daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythm of work or time of service and your time of refreshment and renewal. It is amazing how exercise and a good night’s sleep makes everything more clear. It is amazing how we can embrace our ministries of service when we are rested physically and from time with the Lord we have a strong eternal perspective from which to engage people.
This is not a sprint. This is a life long marathon. Either you manage the internal and external triggers or they manage you. Today you have a choice. What will you do?
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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
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