TOP THREE CAUSES OF BURNOUT…OR AT LEAST THEY WERE MY TOP THREE!
I just came off a three-week sabbatical where I removed myself from everything and everybody. Many people much smarter than myself told me three weeks was not long enough, so I knew I had to make the most of every moment, being intentional in my thoughts and actions. It's amazing how much you can accomplish with no phone, no social media, no work, and no appointments. I was living in this temporary utopia, determined to make the most of it. I needed this adult "time out" to process some things that have happened over the last eight years since we planted our church.
Before we started the church, Jack and I had experienced great success at the church before us, while at the same time, building a prosperous, successful business. I was building SaveOne and every year had been better than the last. I went into this church plant thinking it would be more of the same. Success, growth, new friends, great people, locking arms, and marching forward into this new adventure!
Before we planted, we talked to some dear friends of ours who had started a church about a year before us. We asked them to tell us what we didn't know. I will never forget my friend saying these words to me, "You'll make more enemies than you ever dreamed."
"You'll make more enemies than you ever dreamed."
Fast forward eight years later and I was in a place of believing we had more people who hated us than loved us. I could have never dreamed of the amount of people we would tick off, sometimes just by our very presence. I could tell you story after story of the lies, the betrayal, the rejection, and the anger, from people we considered friends, who we thought would stick by us through thick and thin. I became very disillusioned through this process to the point of fantasizing about moving to a foreign country, going off the grid, or moving to a remote cabin in Montana, growing all our own food and learning how to sew. You know it's bad if I was thinking about domesticating.
So here I was, eight years later. I felt finished. Depleted. Done. I had tried everything I knew to do to fix myself and nothing was working. I had watched my husband over the last year head up the construction of our new church building. It was so stressful on him I literally laid awake at night sometimes, worrying if he was going to die. Being a part of the construction process did not help me and where I was headed. We were both a mess and needed a break, so I had the idea of a sabbatical. The church completely understood and even recognized we looked tired. :-)
Off we went into the land of burner phones and empty calendars. Even now as I write this I'm sitting in a cabin in the woods (not in Montana) soaking in the sun, squeezing every last minute out of my time. And I'm seeing more clearly as to the cause of my distress. I've discovered top three reasons my life led to burnout. Let's start with Reason #1 today. Next week I'll cover the remaining two.
1. Stuffing. As a pastor's wife it's kind of an unwritten rule that we don't step in and get in the middle of church conflicts unless they involve us. It's hard though to sit by quietly and be the good little wife when someone is railing on the hubs unjustly. I believed I needed to be quiet and, in most cases, I still should! But one thing I failed to do is deal with those unresolved feelings of anger, resentment, and betrayal I felt from these people.
Many times we have made friends with people in our church. We have loved on them, visited them in the hospital, helped them out financially, loved their children, and did everything I know a church should/could do and then the people left and talked badly about my husband, me, or my church family, trying to hurt or destroy what we have given our lives to building. I stuffed those emotions thinking I was being the good wife. Instead of pulling out how I felt and dealing with the pain before the Lord, I allowed these people into my mind and my heart to fester and become an unresolved wound.
The way I have always handled conflict is, we talk and we get it worked out and we love each other again. But when the conflict isn't with me, but rather with the church I love, or my husband, who I love even more, I'm unable to do that. I have to find another way to deal with this pain and it is through releasing it to God. The people who leave us are not our enemies even though they may act like it. They may treat us and think of us as an enemy, but they only become my enemy if I decide they are. The real enemy is the power behind their actions; a very real devil who wants to upset us and keep us in turmoil and distracted from the ministry He has called us to complete.
Years of stuffing this type of pain led to many, many layers of hurt that finally toppled into an ugly mess. Now at the same time, not everyone who leaves does so in a negative way. There's a way to leave a church and remain friends, confidantes, brothers and sisters, and there's a way to leave a church that doesn't cause hurt, division, gossip, and betrayal. When someone you love walks out of your life, do not stuff those feelings down any longer. Pull them out, grieve the loss, forgive them, and move on to the people who God has put before you.
Have you wrestled with this all-too-easy, all-too-often bad habit ministry wives pick up? Share from your own experience by joining the conversation below. Then, join me next Monday for the remainder of my lessons learned. I'm so glad to be here with you.
Today's entry is Part Three of our December series, Bye, Bye, Burnout. (Catch up by reading Part One.) Join guest blogger and ministry wife Sheila Harper each week this month as she takes us further through her own journey to burnout and back. Those who comment each week will be entered into a giveaway to win Sheila's new book, Island Living.
Sheila Harper and her husband, Jack, have been in full-time ministry at SaveOne since 2000. The couple planted a church in 2007, so Sheila has been a pastor’s wife for 10 years. Sheila and Jack have two sons, ages 27 & 29. "Neither are married, but I am looking for wives for them so I will be one step closer to having grandchildren," quips Sheila. When asked what shaped her ministry philosophy, Sheila answered, "Pain. Plain and simple. I started SaveOne from a place of wanting to make sure others didn’t experience the same pain I did after an abortion. I wanted everyone to know the truth of what abortion really does to you." As far as the church, "what shaped my ministry philosophy was realizing, if I’m not healthy I could derail my husband’s ministry. As a pastor’s wife I am possibly the most vulnerable in the whole church. I have to take time for soul care, and the whole church remains healthier because of it." Sheila enjoys "hiking, drinking coffee, hiking, reading, hiking, hanging in my hammock in the woods, and hiking" when she comes across some free time. Sheila's greatest passion in ministry comes from seeing people be transformed from the inside out. "When a person walks in and doesn’t know Jesus, gives his/her heart to Him, lets themselves be discipled, and their life start to come together….I don’t know of a greater joy than that."