Ministry Inside.52

Most Thursdays I write something for the series “Ministry Inside.” Typically, the post is a collection of ideas, suggestions, and resources having to do with ministering to a church. I write these posts with church leaders in mind. Yet, I know that many others will read and connect with some of these posts as well.runawayfromyourself.jpg


As I think about my life:

  

At times I have been starry-eyed, so full hope for the future that I failed to appreciate some of the obstacles and challenges facing us now.

At times I have been exhausted with a tiredness that has a way of draining the soul.

At times I have been disheartened, wondering why I can’t rise above my pettiness.


The temptation, I suppose, is to not reveal any of this. Stay in control. Don’t let anyone in. Control what people see and know. Yet, I’m not sure this is the answer.

About sixteen years ago, my physician discovered a tumor near the top of my spine. He discovered it after some chest x-rays were taken in our local emergency room regarding a totally unrelated matter.


Of course this scared me to death.


More tests. “The tumor is probably benign.” (Probably.) The surgeon said, “This needs to come out.” It would involve cutting into my chest. (I had never even been in the hospital before.)

On a Sunday morning, I told the congregation the situation and then the date of the surgery. I would probably be out for several weeks. Then I said the words that apparently made one man very nervous.


“I am cautiously optimistic and yet scared to death.”


I was then approached by an older man, a former preacher, who told me I should not have said this. “You admitted weakness and fear. You must not do this.”


To the contrary.


It is very dangerous NOT to admit weakness, fear, inadequacy, pain, confusion, etc. When any person refuses to deal with his pain (this certainly includes ministers) then that person will often self-medicate. We will attempt to keep this self-medication a secret. Consequently, a person is rocking along thinking that everything is all right and then discovers that a friend has been keeping a secret.

How do some people self-medicate? Shopping, drugs/alcohol, fits of rage, adultery, pornography, emotional affairs, gambling and the list goes on and on.

Ministers are certainly not immune to self-medicating their pain. Again and again, you hear stories of ministers revealing or getting caught in the middle of bizarre behavior. Ministers can blur the lines between the work of ministry and living as Christ-followers. As a result, when a minister is away from the church, he may not only desire a break from the work but a break from following Christ.


Question:

I would love to know what you think about this. What happens when we self-medicate instead of deal with our pain? What do we become when we spend a life time running away from ourselves?

  

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Ministry Inside.52

  1. A couple years ago, I received an anonymous letter advising me that I had better do a better job at handling my problems by myself, that I was not being a strong leader because I was showing physical and emotional signs of distress. Most everyone else loved me, supported me and thanked me for being “one of them.” I’m glad for the ratio. That doesn’t answer your questions specifically, I just wanted to relate to your story. But one way to avoid self-medicating is listen to and emphasize the positives we get from people and put out of our minds and hearts the negatives. Often our tendency is the opposite.

    • Good point Darryl. Sometimes we yield far too easily to voices that seem to echo what we’ve been told before. These messages have a way of becoming the script of our lives, eventually keeping us stuck. Consequently, we hesitate to risk, try what is new, or do anything where there is the potential of failure.

      As you say very well, we may be listening to the wrong people.

  2. I think one result is the delusion that our pain is manageable because we can “medicate” it. It keeps us from dealing with the underlying issues, and because some “medications” are pleasant to enjoy on the surface, we can even come to think we are “happier” living that way. Long-term this is highly destructive, and if we do it long enough, we become superior actors and self-hatred becomes a temptation.

    • Great observations Tim. You are so right, You describe this well. It really is a delusion that our pain is manageable because we can “medicate” it. I suspect that is a part of that yearning in us that says that no matter how bad things may be, we got it under control

      As you say, this keeps from dealing with our underlying issues. We run away from ourselves not facing our fear, hurt, anger, or all of the above.

      Tim, your last sentence is particularly insightful. You sa that if we do it long again, we become “superior actors.” Is that ever true! When we become actors, completely lose our sense of self.

      Thanks Tim.