While sitting in class, while answering emails, while preparing a message, while texting my wife, and while sipping caffeine I heard the professor say, “You’ll get tired in the ministry, but never get tired of the ministry.” His words stopped my multitasking, I nodded my head and couldn’t help but smile at God’s masterful ability to whisper loud and clear in my mess. Burn out is a real threat in my life and here’s a few things I do to fight it.
1. I Go Somewhere. Today, I’m at a coffee shop and while the same task list sits in front of me, it helps a ton to just get some distance and perspective. If I’m in a dark place, I take a special trip to Alki beach and there’s this coffee shop where God and I have met before. If things are beyond dark and I can’t sleep, I head to the Shari’s diner in Totem Lake. I order a terrible cup of coffee, a dutch apple pie, and have it out with God. I know it sounds simple, but having these places in my back pocket as places God has a reputation of meeting me have been huge over the years. I can retreat, find refuge, and be restored. They have become a sort of altar for me. They are steadfast reminders of God doing something big and are a ever present reminder that he could do something big again.
2. I treat myself. When my task list, meetings, and stresses drown me, it’s easy to start feeling like a machine. I kinda get numb to it all and just move from one problem and person to the next. It’s easy to lose your humanity in moments like these. However, taking a moment to buy an ice cream, turn off my phone and just enjoy it quietly restores something very important inside. Maybe it’s going shopping, or getting a pedicure, or just vegging out to shark week but whatever you do, do something. You’ll feel more human afterwards if you do. As a pastor, I sometimes have to perform funerals and they emotional strain is really brutal. My wife makes fun of me for it, but she knows the best medicine after a day like that is to let me watch a Sci Fi original movie. I relax, laugh, and get up from the couch less numb and more human.
3. I Get Quiet. I learned early on in marriage that most conflict arises when one of the partners is either hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. (It also makes a fun acronym, H.A.L.T.) This simply points out that when stress overwhelms we direct our frustrations outward toward others. I’ve gotten better at shutting up in moments like those so I don’t accidentally wound people I love. There’s a place for venting but if I’m not careful, this can spill out on everyone around me and do unnecessary damage. By getting quiet, I let Jesus have his way in me and I can better uncover what changes need to be made.
4. I Become Simple. Probably the most important thing I do is remind myself of what it was like when Jesus first met me. For some strange reason, he always brings me back to this picture of 9th grade when I was sitting on a railing in between classes with some friends. We were swearing, being loud, and making fun of everyone that walked by. I called a girl fat as she passed by and I’ll never forget the hurt in her eyes.
I was dead inside.
Jesus found me and breathed life into this angry, punk kid.
Going back to those days gives me incredible perspective. I see the stress, people, church, and problems for what they are. My relationship with Jesus is lifted out of the peripheral and brought front and center. I am reminded of what Jesus invited me into before life got complicated and his simple invitation stands true. I become that punk kid he found all over again and nothing else matters. I am loved and that’s enough.