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.
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.
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?