Every pastor's wife has an unwritten job description for herself. It might be unconscious and loosely defined but it's there. We know the feeling of not measuring up to what we think we are supposed to do and be. We know the areas that we're falling short. You might not be a pastor's wife. You might be a mom, a ministry leader, or whoever. We have this mental checklist, job description, at all times that we measure ourselves against. It is so tiring!
If you have been in ministry for any length of time, or even if you're just starting out, you have read the books, you've had the conversations, you've read the blogs and heard the horror stories. You know that fatigue and burnout in ministry are for real. I'm not writing as a ministry burnout expert imparting my wisdom down to you, but as a sister in the trenches with you. I'm struggling, learning, and growing. I share the same weaknesses but I also share the same Father that sustains us as we learn, grow, and struggle.
I don't think we were fully cognizant of this, but we hadn't even caught our breath from the first church plant before we plunged back into planting another church in another town. My husband (Ronnie) preaches every Sunday at two congregations. We're responsible for the majority of the marriage counseling, the premarital counseling, the leadership development, the membership classes, and soul development in general. The calls, the training, the teaching, community groups and everything else, we did it. A myriad of details go into running two churches. It can be exhausting! Finally, after three years, we hired a part-time worship leader. He and his wife have been an immeasurable grace to us. Up to that point, Ronnie had not only been preaching every week but leading worship as well. Thankfully, fall of last year we hired a lead pastor for the second congregation. That was such a huge answer to prayer. Needless to say, before the hires we were stretched dangerously thin.
We knew sabbatical was coming in 2018. We looked forward to it! We even had a dear friend tell us, "Just hold on. Your sabbatical is coming!" But I knew then and I know now, a sabbatical would not fix the kind of anxiety and fatigue that had already settled in. We were living at an unsustainable pace.
Over the last year, God has brought me to a deepening conviction that I need a rest that only he provides. I don't want to be one of those ministry couples barely keeping our heads above water between vacations and sabbatical (if you get one). God has been teaching truths about the nature of rest, what true peace is, and more importantly, where these things are to be found. Time and time again I have been drawn back to Jesus's words in Matthew 11:28-30 where he said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Come To Jesus
This is a familiar passage. My eyes and my heart, they always focus on a few key lines and a few key words. Yes, I am heavy-laden. Yes, please help me find rest. I hold on and I anchor in. Those are the words my heart and my eyes are drawn to. But in between those two points, something new stuck out at me. I am called first to come to him. "Come to me." Coming to Jesus can be a hard thing when you're a capable person who can run in your gifting. I regularly feel “No, no, no, I have this!" So Jesus calls me away from myself and says, "Come to me."
Take His Yoke
After coming, we are called to take Christ's yoke. What does that look like? Taking Christ's yoke is submitting to him. Laying our capabilities at his feet. Laying down our preferences. Laying down our weaknesses. Submitting our will to his will! We lay down our stuff and take up his stuff. His stuff is far better!
Learn From Him
And then, we learn from him. What are we to learn from him? We learn that he is gentle and lowly in heart. We are called to learn humility. I have been learning about the nature of humility. What humility is and what it isn't. This famous and familiar verse in Matthew 11 tied rest and humility together in a way that was completely fresh and surprising to me.
In my next post, I want to share with you more on how humility can help sustain you and save you from burnout.