Thursday, June 7, 2012

Four Lessons Hard-Learned

I knew I had to change things.  There was no other option.  Healing from stress and fatigue is the place where I needed to begin, but restructuring the way I lived would keep me for the long haul.

The habits or patterns of behavior that led me to the point of a near melt down were deeply embedded.  The challenge of overcoming them was/is no small task.  Although I have come out of my emotional ICU, I am not completely out of the woods yet.  The chance of relapse – of falling back into overcrowded schedules – of jumping through too many hoops – of trying to please too many people – and worrying about the expectations of people – is a clear and present danger.  That’s why an overhaul of my schedule and patterns of behavior is so essential.

There’s one thing you learn from burnout:  once you experience it, depression will never be far away.  String a few failures together, or have a problem at home, and it’s easy to feel the shadows begin to blot out your view of the sun again.

Here are four lessons hard-learned:

1.  Do Not Overproduce.  I have always been a hard worker and an overachiever, even before I came to Christ.  And when I did come to Christ, I simply gave those efforts to God.  But it was a trap.  No matter how much I produced, the pressure was always there to do more.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to chain myself to an unrelenting cycle of producing more, making more, and doing more, or trying to outdo last weeks attendance numbers.  I just have so much time in the day, and I want to do what I can, but I don’t want to kill myself in the process.  So I’ve established some guardrails and made some restrictions in my life.  The only person that can do that is me!  It’s not a board decision or a response to complaints and expectations of others.  It’s my decision, because if I don’t’ make it no one else will.

2.  Steward My Energy.  A leader’s greatest assets is not time.  It is energy.  A person well rested and full of energy can accomplish more in four hours than a fatigued person can in four days.  With energy, a father can share quality time with his children building huge and lifelong memories, that simply spending time with them while fatigued would never accomplish.

I’m certain that God would not have us squander our precious stores of energy on go-nowhere circumstances.  Seems like unwise stewardship.  Vegetating in the office or dissipating ourselves senselessly is an exercise in futility.

I only have a finite amount of energy to invest each day, and how I invest it makes all the difference.  In my youthfulness I was an energy dynamo plowing my way through hours, days, weeks, months, and years of work without proper rest or margin.  Now, I have less energy reserves so it is important that I steward it properly.

How and where I chose to invest my energy is the most important decision I will make on any given day.  If I’m not careful and disciplined, my time energy will be squandered on e-mail, Facebook, religious debates, endless phone conversations, and useless activities.  Consistently mis-investing my energy causes a level of exhaustion that feels like a low-grade fever.

3.  Rest Well & Remember the Sabbath Principle.  We are never more vulnerable to depression and burnout than when we are mentally fatigued and physically tired.  One of the very first steps in reversing depression and regaining a new sense of resilience is restA lesson hard-learned on my part.

Rest is not laziness.  It is not a sin.  Doing nothing is okay!  Taking a break doesn’t mean you are a sluggard.  Catching your breath every now and then doesn’t mean you are not carrying your load.  Taking a Sabbath doesn’t mean your are less committed than the workaholics around you.  Life will not be rushed, so get some rest.

4.  Fight for Your Family.  Someone once said that the darkest place of a lighthouse is always at its base.  That can be said of our families.  A pastor or Christian leader can shine a radiant beam of light to the horizon, while their own broken plumbing is flooding the house.

One day after many years of ministry with a wonderful congregation, I will say my good-byes, pack my bags, and, with many tears, will clean out my office, and walk out of the church as its senior pastor.  But when I walk out of the church, there’s only one place I can walk into.


If I fail at building my home base, then I will have nowhere to go when my ministry days are over.  Too many pastors, church staff, and leaders have sacrificed martial harmony and family on the altar of success.  It’s not worth it.

Here’s a fact.  Not a judgment, mind you.  Just a fact of life.  While everyone in our great church loves me and my family, I have come to realize that nobody is fighting for my family.  That’s my job.  That’s the task God has given to me.  Others may fight for pieces of my time and energy, but no one will fight for my family.

Although I have two grown sons, a grandson, and others spread out all over the place, we stay very dialed-in as a family.  Maintaining healthy relationships within the family is a full-time job!  It’s relentless, but it’s worth it.

Living an Intentional Life

I’ve discovered that a disciplined life is best for me.  It suits me well.  Having a healthy “cadence” contributes a great deal to being a healthy person.  It is the daily, weekly, and monthly regimen that points me toward a life of abundance without regrets.


Brooke McIntire said...

I understand these posts on a level I wish I didn't. Depression has been my foe for several years now, only after I allowed myself to be "volunteered" for everything and anything going on, both inside the church and out. I just continued n thinking I was doing what God expected of me until I became suicidal. And believe me when I tell you, suicidal is not something anyone would expect from me. I'm a very strong personality. My biggest fault is that I feel like I need to sacrifice my own emotional health in order to be an encourager and listener for others. I have had to turn off my phone, limit my interaction on Facebook ( the only reason I even chose to keep it was to share pictures of the kids with family and close friends), and just take time off to rest and heal. I'm not "there" by any means, but much closer than I was a few months ago. I'm finding peace and joy again, one little baby step at a time. I see now exactly why God led us to PCC as an answer to our cries and prayers.

Eddie Hernandez said...

Excellent blog and some very sound advice that many will over look or not even realize until it is to late. You hit the nail on the head with what family is and how important it is to keep it together. You always bring something to the table that hits at my core. Great Job!!

Ron said...

Appreciate the comments Brooke and Eddie.