Ahh. The book of James. Need to get worked over a bit? Set sail as a community through James. I've been amazed at how one by one, I have struggled with each issue James deals with, almost in sync as we have moved through the book. I realize that may be a function of simply having my head in the passages and so being more cognizant of my own short comings in those areas, but still...
It's been rough.
And on top of that, I think my brain is trying to get me to quit my job.
Don't worry... I'm not quitting or even considering it. My psyche is just dealing with a temporarily (I hope) heavy load of pastoral weight in funny ways right now.
I find myself thinking, considering, daydreaming about how my
reactions to different situations would change were I not in pastoral
My dreams right now all contrast a hard life of ministry with... whatever the option is. A hard life without ministry, I guess. Which doesn't really appeal to me in the least as a long-term course, but...
I find myself (at moments) wistfully remembering the feelings/lack of weight of a time in my life when I had a full-time job that wasn't pastoral ministry. For the first year of my marriage (thank You, Lord for Your providence!) I actually went home, turned it all off and didn't think about work until the next morning.
It was bliss...
But, now that I think about it, it was the "bliss" of vacation. And everyone knows, extend your vacation too long, and it ceases to be fun. At a certain point, it just turns into unemployment- meaningless inactivity. That time was bliss because it represented a rest from some hard, damaging pastoral and personal situations and also because with every passing day my passion to get back to the work I was made for grew.
So maybe what my brain is telling me is that I need to find ways to take a vacation and turn it off for awhile.
The hard part is, when your job is to handle certain tasks, to make
sure certain things get done, yeah- you can turn that off. But when
your job is to care for people? You can go "on vacation" physically, but mentally is an entirely different question.
I can get out of town, but I know, I know- those same marriages are still struggling, those same folks who are on the cusp and leaning away from community and from Jesus are still leaning, that same organizational entropy is still in action...
One of the hard parts about pastoral ministry in a church the size of evergreen is that there's just enough people-weight to load you down and keep you up at night, but not enough to send you over that edge where you can justify just firewalling yourself off mentally for your own sanity.
When I was doing the (yet-unfinished) counseling degree at Western, I had to do a stint as a counselor/therapist in a local community mental health place... and man, the stories I heard. I left there each day of the first couple of weeks completely broken and weighed down by the stories I sat and heard all day long. Abuse and pain, divorce and dysfunction...
Until, one day, I hit the tipping point and an internal switch flipped.
I just couldn't carry it around. I could care intensely for my clients for the time I was preparing to be with them, the time we spent together and for the time I was considering what they had said after... but at the end of the day, it all got put away and I went home. I gave myself permission to let it go. The firewall turned on and I was able to actively resist thinking about those people and their problems until it was time to do so again.
Pastoral ministry is different... very different. It doesn't take place within set hours. There's no maximum client loads. There's always more to do, and whereas my role in the lives of "clients" was well-defined with really, really firm boundaries, not so with the more holistic vocation of pastoral ministry.
And so I find myself up at 1:30am adding to my to do list- "remember to connect so and so with each other", "call (blank)," "get x for y" and so on...
I have a feeling that figuring out this issue is the difference between someone who lasts and someone who burns out in ministry. I also have a feeling that not figuring it out is a major cause of the fallen/double-life pastor... and again, don't worry, I'm doing good there- not hiding anything! But I think I get those who end up with this really secret part of themselves that they don't share with anyone- it's vacation for them. Going to those hidden places is almost a way to force themselves to turn off thinking about others and caring for them and stop being a pastor. Hard to do any of that standing in an adult bookstore... or worse.
Anyway, not complaining... just processing. The good part is I have found myself praying more and more desperately for others, for my community and for myself in the past few days than I have in perhaps a couple of years. And that's probably a good thing, yeah?
Jesus, these are Your people, it's Your community. Thank You for my role in taking care of them. Help me to do my job/calling well. And help me to NOT do it equally as well. Please...