I was talking to my friend Mark, who owns a gym, the other day. Mark made a comment about how sometimes he’ll see people work very hard on their bodies, but not particularly hard on anything else (their family, their education, etc). I responded by saying that, in my line of work, it’s the exact opposite problem.
Pastors have sound minds. Pastors have great hearts.
But pastors do not take care of themselves at all.
We’re not the only ones (of course), but in the Heart/Mind/Strength trifecta, it’s our lack of strength that kills us.
The Hebrew word in the Shema (see Deuteronomy 6) for strength is meh-ode (H3966), and it literally means “very”, but it connotes energy, vehemence, and bodily well-being. Mind is also part of meh-ode, because that’s where you’ll decide how to spend your energy; but strength is the actual energy you will spend with your physical activity, time, and attention (see Genesis 17.6, Exodus 19.18, 1 Kings 17.17).
Strength = constitution (energy + physicality).
You know when you’ve got to lift something heavy overhead, and it requires that extra little oomph to get it up? That oomph is your “very-ness”, your strength. My contention is that pastors try to add a little extra oomph to everything they do. All the time. At every level. And it causes massive fatigue.
As a group, pastors are tired. We all want to quit. But not really. It’s just that we’re so exhausted so much of the time we can’t remember how to experience the blessing we tell people God promises.
We give a little extra on weekends, and a little extra on weeknights, and a little extra in our personal prayer and study, and a little extra at the office during the day, and a little extra in the morning to listen quietly to God, and a little extra for holidays, and a little extra for special occasions, and a little extra for our kids (because they’re really important), and a little extra for our spouses (because we have to put them first, after God).
If you’re reading this and you’re not a pastor you’re probably thinking, big deal! We all do that.
You’re right. Another thing that’s true about pastors is that we’re all whiners.
Whenever you need to get away from work, or find perspective on family affairs, or be reminded of God’s design for your life, you come to church. But church, and all that accompanies it, is the very thing from which your pastors need to escape. The things that energize, refresh, and nourish your spirit deplete your pastor.
Please don’t misunderstand me. That’s not your fault. You shouldn’t feel guilty. Neither should you pity your pastors. We’re big boys and we ought to figure out how to stay healthy for ourselves.
Trouble is, we don’t. We’re negligent. And we excuse our fatigue because it results from our calling. To make matters worse, we find coping mechanisms that often exacerbate the very problems we’re trying to fix. We overeat (stress-eating is a major occupational hazard), we play to the crowds (even though revival and momentum energize us, they also exhaust us), we say yes to crappy chores (because we want to make sure no one considers us too big for our britches), and the net result of our failure to prioritize our health and wellbeing is desecration.
Yes. We take something sacred—our bodies, our energy, our “very-ness”—and we treat it like it’s the cheapest toy on the shelf. We overuse it. We abuse it. We give it away. We take ourselves for granted—our health, our personal desires, our pain, our noble ambitions—and it results in excessive eating, praying, and working. None of which are bad, but all of which can become bad when they get in the way of us actually doing what God wants.
And what does he want?
For us to prosper, even as our soul prospers.
The world refers to this as “wellness” but it’s a terrible word. If you’re a guy reading this, you’re probably thinking I don’t want to be “well.” The word feels like it comes with a free pair of yoga pants and a man purse. I’ve thought long and hard about a manly synonym. Truthfully, there isn’t a good one. But the one that comes closest for dudes is awesome.
That guy’s awesome.
He’s awesome—I totally wanna be like that when I grow up.
Awesome! When can we do _____?
If you really want to know what it looks like to experience shalom, peace, wellness, health and wholeness, then find someone unilaterally awesome. Rich Froning. Derek Webb. Len Sweet.
These are the guys who have figured out what God wants and will do everything for you and with you and through you except this.
You have to take care of yourself.