Dear Christ Church,
My first brush with burnout was in my twenties when I was a full-time grad student at the University of Texas, while also spending 25 hours a week in volunteer ministry at my church. Christine and I were seeing much fruit, leading small groups, raising up new leaders, multiplying and coaching groups, and meeting individually to disciple others. The pace was torrid.
When I moved to Vancouver for seminary, I crashed. My instinct was initially to blame my pastor and leaders who had driven the pace, rewarded the fruit, and created an ethos of hyper-activism. As I processed this with one of my professors, Jim Houston, he challenged this perspective, pointing out that no one “made me do it.” It was all voluntary; I could have slowed down or stepped back at any moment, if I had wanted. But I didn’t want to. Why? Because I felt the affirmation and attention of mentors and pastors; I felt the appreciation of those I discipled and led; I felt needed and admired. And I liked it. I was not emotionally healthy enough to avoid these temptations of ministry.
This was one of a handful of pivotal moments that made emotional health one of my core values of ministry. Of course, the pursuit of such wholeness is for all of us. This requires a willingness to know ourselves, our tendencies and vulnerabilities, our motives and blind spots, and the hunger of our heart.
In the years that followed I prioritized rhythms for reflection: daily devotions, weekly Sabbath-keeping, monthly half-day retreats, annual multi-day retreats, and Sabbaticals. I also prioritized reading and conversation that would get to the heart of matters, and periodic conversation with counselors and mentors. It’s a lifelong process, and I still see areas that are vulnerable, new blind spots, and sometimes the exasperating need to revisit things that I thought were resolved.
Tonight and tomorrow we are hosting Bishop Trevor Walters to walk us through a better understanding of healing; and he’ll be preaching this Sunday! Some of you are in a group studying and talking about the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, others in the Marriage Course. Friends, let’s press on as lifelong disciples who live and minister and work out of place of rest and peace in our souls, whole life disciples for the sake of the world, and to the praise of God’s glory.