My friend Bill Petty (professor of Finance at Baylor University) asked me this question a number of years ago. I don’t recall why he asked the question. I do remember that the question was related to my work — my ministry. As I recall, I was telling him about certain aspects of my work that just drained me. When I am involved in these things, I feel drained and at times depleted of energy. Bill then asked me,
"What energizes you? What is it that you enjoy doing that brings energy and life to you? Is it possible to maximize these things and to minimize some of the things you might do that are draining?"
These were wonderful questions. I had not thought of my work or life from this perspective.
I don’t know that a person can completely get away from doing everything that is boring, draining, or maddening. However, I do think it is useful to know what it is that energizes me. I might then give some thought as to how I am spending my time. Am I spending far too much time in areas that completely drain me while I spend less time doing the things that make me feel most alive, useful and are in line with my gifts?
"What energizes you?" I have thought about that question through the years. I especially think about it when I find myself embroiled in conversations or activities that deplete me of valuable energy.
Gordon MacDonald tells the following story from his early days in ministry. Perhaps you can relate to this (whether in your own ministry or job):
My first crack at shepherding a congregation came during seminary days when a group of twenty families, ranchers and farmers living on the Kansas-Colorado border, offered a parsonage and a small paycheck if I would be their pulpit-guy. My wife, Gail, and I enthusiastically entered the rural culture to serve the people. They taught us much, and we loved them in return.
A few months into this experience, the deacons convened a meeting to resolve a business issue. I can’t remember the subject matter, but I do recall that people I really cared for began to say things to each other that left Gail and me devastated. It was like being parents of children fighting in the back seat. It sounds prideful, but we couldn’t believe that people under our ministry influence could act so unpleasantly.
After the meeting, a woman approached Gail and me to say, "Now you know who we really are. And some day you’ll be just like us."
Gail responded, "No! We’ll never allow ourselves to become like that." A bold assertion, of course; but we were young and self-confident.
These words bother me: "…and some day you’ll be just like us." Ugh. This is a reminder to me that if I am not careful, I can do just that. I can become one more drained, tired, bitter person who spends his/her time whining about his/her lot in life. I can lose all sense of joy as it relates to my ministry or job. I can become just like other people who have lost all sense of enjoyment, energy, and passion.
Is it possible to stop doing everything that drains me? No. Yet, I can do a better job of monitoring what these activities are doing to me. I can say "no" to some activities which just don’t fit who I am as a person. I can intentionally see that I am giving time to those activities or aspects of my work that are invigorating and energy-producing.
What activities in your ministry and/or work do you find to be most draining? What do you find to be energy producing and invigorating?
The next time you buy a Coke. This is what happens in that Coke machine.