Have you ever seen this meme?
As a pastor I can totally relate to this meme. However, I would add a lot more to it like: have a healthy devotional life, have a healthy prayer life, keep up with my emails, with my scheduling, make enough time to meet with everyone who asks if they can talk with me, spend time with my family, make time for my friends, make time for my dog, work on sermons, and try and have a little fun along the way. We are busy people and some days it is a little (or very) overwhelming. It is hard when you feel like you have to be all things to all people. It’s even worse when you feel like you should be the last person being able to be anything to anyone. Not having enough time for everyone and everything in your life can come with much guilt. This guilt can be really damaging to your heart and your ministry. I honestly wish I had more hours in the day so I could give more time, but even then I’m sure I would have the same problem. Sometimes it’s not about having enough time, but how you use it. It is easy to say you have to prioritize your time, but what happens when everything you do effects other people’s lives? It makes it really hard to balance things. I remember learning in Bible college that the order of importance in our life should be, 1) God, 2) Family, and 3) Ministry. For the longest time I tried to use this for a model in my life and ministry. Till one day I found my self-burned out and really bitter. I was so bitter it was starting to be noticeable to those who worked with me. In the midst of this burned-out and bitter season, one of my wiser coworkers sat me down to see what was going on with me and my heart. The best thing I could say was “I am so tired.” After I answered, he asked me what my list of priorities were. So I took out my super-Christian-bible-school-answer and said, “God, family, and ministry”. He responded, “Ok. But where do you fit in on that list?” It was a simple question, yet it wrecked my whole way of thinking. I began to question: Where did I fit time for myself? Where was I on the list of my priorities? I think there are two truths, or two realties, to this answer. The first truth being that I have had seasons in my life where I have put everyone and everything first in my life while I was put on the back burner. The second truth or reality is that there were other times in my life where I would put myself before everything and I was my only priority- not God, not family, not ministry, but my own selfish desires and “needs”. The truth is that both truths were unhealthy! Putting other people and other things before my needs was unhealthy AND only thinking of myself was just as unhealthy and dangerous for my life. I began to see a pattern of one extreme or the other in my life. I was either all in, which doesn’t always mean all healthy, or I was all out and acting like I was still in. Both were so damaging to me and the people in my life. I had not learned what balance was and more importantly what it was to lead out of a healthy relationship with Christ. It is so easy to start going through the motions. However, just because you are “busy” with Kingdom work doesn’t mean you are really spending time with the King of the Kingdom. It was only a matter of time before that caught up to me. When I was in Bible school as a student, I had the bad habit of only reading my Bible to do my homework. I never really corrected that while I was a student so I took it into my ministry. There were many seasons where I only read my bible to put together a sermon. I was older but still practicing the same poor habits of a teenager and early young adult. My excuse was always, “I don’t have enough time”. In reality, I had never learned what it was to use my time in a healthy and productive manner. That is why the question my coworker asked me wrecked my way of thinking so much, because I had never thought about it. Trust me, it is hard when you are a pastor and you feel like you have so much on your plate. I have had times where I am morning a loss and I just want to be the one to break down but I can’t because someone walked into my office to break down so I have to be there for them. There have been moments where I am walking to my car to finally grab some food after not having time to stop to eat all day but am approached by someone who needs to talk. Being a Pastor is a 24/7 job, but the reality is you are the only one who can protect your health. I am talking about physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health. Ministry can be demanding and people are human- they will take as much of you as you give them. You have to be the one to protect your health. If I am not taking care of myself, then I have nothing healthy to give to people. If I am not spending time in God’s presence, then I am pouring myself into people not God into people (which is scary and dangerous). Sometimes I think I can’t afford the time to stop and sit in God’s presence when in reality I can’t afford not to! I don’t know about your life, but a lot of times when I am experiencing burn out it’s because I am either not spending time with God like I should or I am not taking care of myself like I should. The truth is that there is no perfect balance to all that we have in our life. That is why I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit can help lead us and guide us with the different seasons in life that we go through. Just as much as we know we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit we also need to know what fills our tank in other ways. For me, spending time with my friends and family, going to Disneyland, going fishing, watching Netflix, crafting, all these things fill my tank. When I am not filling my tank with the things that I enjoy along with the Holy Spirit, I get burnt out. When the very people you are ministering to start being the number one people that get on your nerves- it’s a good chance that you are burned out. Always remember that people are not an interruption to ministry, people are ministry! BUT you are a ministry too! We have to make time for self-care! You are important and you are worth taking care of yourself. I pray that if you are holding on to guilt for not having enough time to help everyone in your life that you would surrender that to God. Maybe that means learning to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right things. Even saying no to the things that seem right but just can’t be done in this season. Maybe that means building up other leaders around you so that you are not the only one people run to. What I have had to do is just be real with God and myself about how much I can do and about the things I can’t do. Please know that you are not alone in feeling burned out sometimes. You are not alone in feeling guilty. You are not alone in just wanting to shut and lock your office door sometimes. You are not alone in wanting to quit. You are not alone in feeling unworthy of your calling. You are not alone in whishing there was more time in the day. I have been there and I know countless other people have felt these things and more! What keeps us is God’s grace that is greater than our titles! May you drench yourself in God’s presence and treat yourself to a Disney day or a paint ball session with the guys. Just get out there and fill your tank with the Holy Spirit and some fun! Yes, you do deserve it!