I didn't know what I was getting into when I began my ministry. I had not spent much time "behind the curtain" and was surprised to find that many people in the congregation I led were still exploring a relationship with Jesus. It seemed strange that after being in the church for so long, they could be in this stage, but it also was exciting. People were hungry to know Jesus intimately. I immediately kicked it into high gear and poured myself completely into helping them.
It all seemed like a worthy cause. What else could be more significant than to walk alongside a group that is actively seeking the Lord? But as time went by, I found myself giving up other pieces of me. I didn't spend much time cultivating relationships with friends outside of the church. I didn't take time to rest. I left books that were not related to ministry on the shelf. I skimped on my time with the Lord. There was always a good reason to keep on serving.
I began to believe that this was the cross of ministry that I must bear. After all, Jesus said that if we want to be his followers, we must take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). So I carried that cross, I drug it around day after day, until I was so burned out that I wanted to quit.
The Lord provided a relationship that was vital to my survival...a ministry coach! She helped me dive beneath the surface and explore. I was encouraged to read from Pete Scazzero's work that focused on our emotional and spiritual health. The more I read, the more I was convinced that he somehow got into my head.
"We are not called by God to die to the 'good' parts of who we are. God never asked us to die to the healthy desires and pleasures of this life-to friendships, joy, art, music, beauty, recreation, laughter, and nature. Often these desires and passions are invitations from God, gifts from him. Yet somehow we feel guilty about unwrapping those presents.
When I ask people, 'Tell me about your wishes, hopes, and dreams,' they are often speechless. 'Why do you ask?' they respond. 'Isn't my only wish, hope, and dream supposed to be serve Jesus?'
Not exactly. God never asks us to annihilate the self. We are not to become 'non-persons' when we become Christians. The very opposite is true. God intends our deeper, truer self, which he created, to blossom freely as we follow him." (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 28)
I had forgotten to apply ALL of Jesus' words. "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up doing life your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23 NLT) Jesus first invites us to put to death our way of doing life. Going non-stop was my way. Striving to produce was my way. Leaving behind opportunities to write, sing, and soak up God's creation was my way. Neglecting time with my spouse, who I vowed to love, honor, and cherish, was my way. Giving up sabbath, a commandment (not a suggestion) that God declared holy, in the name of building up the Kingdom was my way. I was dying to the wrong things.
How about you? Are you dying to the wrong things? Are you so caught up in doing things your way that you've neglected friendships, rest, community, health...Jesus??
Great leaders create healthy rhythms to live fully as the person God created them to be. Trust God. Let Him forge the way ahead. As you follow His ways, you will experience life, security, peace, and freedom. You'll be able to do what you love in a way that honors God and allows you to live as the person and leader you are meant to be.
"What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?" Luke 9:25
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