I was exhausted, the type of exhaustion where you can’t think clearly. The type of exhaustion where you’re sitting on the couch, and the very thought of moving is a chore (allegory of course). Without realizing it, I had become burned out and not engaged in any type of relationship outside of what I needed to do to survive just another day. Does this sound familiar to you? It should because we’ve all been there. For me, it was a time in my life where I was running on empty. I was giving so much energy to the student ministry I was leaving zero room for self-care. I was casting vision for the future programs, curriculum and teaching youth choir. I was training volunteer leaders and helping pastor them. I was going on mission trips, meeting with college-aged students and writing sermons. I had over-extended myself, and soon everything I touched was marginal at best. I tried to create, but what I created was tainted with my inadequacy. Because…
When any person—pastor, leader, husband, wife, director, CEO, stay at home dad, customer service representative—anyone—reaches that point, it can be detrimental to their performance and care for other humans. Our natural human instinct, when we have exhausted all our emotional energy, is to retract inward. We want to leave little room for others. Because of this retraction, we quickly become concerned about only our self-preservation. This kind of self-centeredness isn’t the good kind that we will talk about in a minute, it is the kind that uncovers our deepest sin in hopes to be relieved of all of the moment and self-doubt we’re presently in.
I am lucky because I was able to see my own exhaustion and had a mentor (Brian King) that forced me to take some time for self-care before I lost myself.
I have come to realize that our leadership, humanness, and ministry are only as healthy as the least healthy part of ourselves.
In other words, our emotions, spirituality, and physiology have a direct impact on our ability to reach our best work and to impact other people. When we are at a place of unhealthiness, our margins for others starts to cave in around us, leaving us with a suffocating feeling.
I have found, that my best work is realized when I’m at the healthiest place in my life.
For me to find health, it took honest reflection. This is why I engage in the spiritual discipline of prayer. I really believe that setting aside time for prayer is helpful and meaningful. It creates space for you to be filled with hope and to unload your burdens on the God that cares. It doesn’t have to be a super spiritual experience, I pray while I walk my dog; while I’m working in the office and while driving my car to and from work.
The next helpful thing is to learn to say “NO.” It’s okay to say “NO” to things that will be draining for you–things that cause you to invest more energy than is wise. Saying “no” to something that is draining will free up space for you to say, “yes” to something that will be life giving.
Finally, find a therapist or a close friend that can simply listen. Now, this is actually hard for some of us—because vulnerability is terrifying. But, by being vulnerable you’re offering yourself peace by simple self-awareness and honesty to someone else. The times I have met with a spiritual director and a therapist have been some of the most healing experiences in my life. There is something spiritual that takes place when an objective person takes the time to listen without input and you can say anything!
These things mentioned are the good type of self-centeredness; the kind that is determined to seek health and stability rather than imploding on oneself out of exhaustion and a depleted relational fuel. I really believe that these things listed above can save marriages, relationships, jobs and ministries and I hope you take it into account. God wants his creation to be in a healthy place. It is within the confines of health that the Creator does the BEST WORK in us and through us. What do you find to be helpful to be healthy?