45 days to be precise.
That time has encapsulated the entire 29 days of February that there were this year. What a month that was. It was loaded with performances, retreat, trial stuff, as well as all the other usual day to day stuff of ministry. I reached the end of February wondering where both it and my energy levels had gone to. It was a lot to take on for one month – probably too much truth be told. But it is over now and I am in recovery still. The body will heal and energy will be restored, thank God.
Why do people burn themselves out for faith? Everything I was doing was wonderful in terms of the ministry that it was. 900 people came to see the panto. 10 men had their lives changed forever during the Walk to Emmaus retreat. Three congregations came together for a memorable service when I was on trial (for preaching!!!) It was all good and in some way, I am sure, fruitful. I suppose that is why we do it. Because we see the fruit in the lives of others.
Ministry is relentless. One Sunday gets completed and the next one rolls along very quickly. One person gets buried or cremated and the next phone call comes from the undertaker. One pastoral situation shows signs of improvement and then another comes on the horizon. You put away one batch of paperwork and admin for the Connexion and another one arrives to be done. Relentless.
I seriously wonder how I will cope with this in the long term if I do not come up with ways of counteracting the busyness now. Rest is important. Devotion is crucial. Steadiness of pace is needed.
Ministry is also lonely. That is ironic because I do spend my life with people. I visit. I have meetings. I am around other human beings so much. And yet, this is a lonely place. I am in a wonderful family and have amazing friends. And yet this is a lonely place. I worship an intimate and personal saviour in Christ and yet this is a lonely place. It is also lonely for my wife.
Is all this worth it for the fruit? It is when I sit with family and listen to their pain and know that in sharing it with me there is some relief. It is when I hear a word of encouragement from someone who has been blessed by something I have said. It is not when the loneliness and doubt of spiritual struggle set in. It is not when I yearn to be an ordinary man in an ordinary job. It is when I remember that God has called this very ordinary and fallen man and that I am privileged to do such an extraordinary job and be invited into the lives of people.
Basically, I love and hate my job simultaneously ad this will continue to be the way. God grant me the grace to live well with this tension.