Many of us are very busy, overcommitted, and burdened. Some of us feel as if we are carrying the weight of it all on our shoulders. And yet, we want to stay fresh and alive for the long haul.
Taking steps to stay fresh for the long haul is important because too many people crash and burn.
Perhaps there have been too many disappointments and too many meetings in which the unthinkable happens. After a while, you become angry, bitter, and cynical.
Some of us know what it is to be angry. We are resentful of what happened behind closed doors in a church meeting, resentful of being treated unfairly, resentful of being underpaid, resentful of unkind words. Or, you are just tired. You are tired of being the point person. You are tired of having to be the responsible adult.
Some of us know what it is to feel self-doubt. You went to seminary and worked hard, but your ministry just hasn’t gone the way you thought it would. You hear some of your fellow ministers say their churches are doing well. Yet, so many of us are ministers who are disappointed and confused about the way things have turned out.
Some people begin to feel entitled and complacent. We feel like we deserve a life better than this. We may begin taking some shortcuts. Maybe these are shortcuts to quick pleasure. These moments of quick pleasure may become a secret. We rationalize that we deserve this after all we’ve been through. (Sounds like a rationalization from the father of lies.)
Some of us know what it is to feel lonely. To not have real friends. To feel as if no one in the church knows what we are going through or dealing with. In the meantime, some of us may realize that we really have not invested in our marriages in earlier years and we may not be that close to our wives/husbands.
1. We have been married for almost 39 years. There is no magic formula. Much of marriage is about a committed friendship that a man and woman have with one another. Marriage may be more than simply a friendship but it is at least that. It is building a history of friendship together. It is so important that I treat her/him as I would treat a true friend.
2. Know that marriage requires forgiveness. Are there difficult and challenging situations? Of course. Such situations will mean that we will need to offer and receive almost daily forgiveness. As a Christ-follower, I can’t store up instances of my spouse’s failures, mistakes, and sins only to spread them out on the kitchen table for review every time I get angry and resentful. Before I focus on what my spouse has said or done, I might first consider what I have done in my life that put the Son of God on a cross.
3. Be committed to growing up. It is tough when a husband acts like a 12 year-old boy instead of a grown man. It is tough when one’s wife continues to behave, well into her 30s, as if the world centers around her. Husbands and wives are called to grow up and mature. Marriage is meant for grown-ups.
4. Deal with the baggage that you have. If you were hurt, abandoned, or abused as a child, no man can make up for what you experienced. No spouse can heal the hurt or make up for the insecurities that one experienced as a child. Such expectations put unrealistic pressure on a marriage.
I grew up in Southeast Dallas, the old Pleasant Grove area. During those years (1960’s), most of my memories of living in our neighborhood are good. I don’t remember my parents being concerned about crime in our neighborhood. Things were relatively calm in that neighborhood.
In my memory, life was full. Baseball in the summer and touch/tackle football the rest of the year. We had a field behind us that belonged to a nearby Baptist church where we played both sports. It was the gathering place on hot summer evenings.
In the summers, when we were out of school, I would get on my bike in the morning (often with my friends Kip and his brother Dale) and stay gone most of the day. I rode with friends to stores, to the park, to nearby streets, and to the community swimming pool. These were different times. In fact, the one warning that I got from my mother (who would be working at a bookstore all day) was “Don’t be late for supper.”
Your habits will either contribute to your energy or work to deplete your energy.
Three years ago, I made a huge change in my life. For 35 years, I had served churches as a preacher. My life was busy. Rearing children. Preparing sermons and classes. Conversations with people. Walking with others in our church through various crises. Then in December 2013, we moved to Memphis where I would begin serving as Vice President of Harding School of Theology. That was quite a change in many ways.
What has helped me maintain energy more than anything is to establish certain habits that I do every day. In other words, I try to cut down on the number of decisions that I make each morning related to time, and simply carry out the habits which have already been established. In the past, far too often, I began each day by making numerous decisions about how I would spend that time. Even going to the gym to work out has become a habit. (This has been far more effective than trying to decide every day whether I will go or not.)
The following are five daily habits that give me energy.
I begin every day by getting up early enough to read my Bible, pray regarding the day ahead, and thinking about what I plan to do this day. There is something about this intentionality that centers me and makes me ready to take on the day. Ideally, I do this before checking e-mail. I have found that when I begin by checking e-mail, there are often those surprise notes that have a way of preoccupying my mind and emotions. I like to vary what I do during this time. Sometimes I will read the morning reading from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours. On other occasions I will listen to the brief Pray as You Go podcast. I find the variety to be very helpful.
I begin every day with a list of three things that I want to get done that day. Typically, I will write these three things on a Post-it note and keep it in front of me in my office. These are three important things that I really want to get done that day. Now I also use Nozbe, an excellent organizer. I have lists of action steps I need to take regarding a number of projects. I also have a list of action items that are fairly urgent. However, when it comes to the “must do’s” for the day, I have found a list of three to be very helpful.