Confession

note: I realized that my last post was a post about a preacher being tired. I didn’t think these two posts would run so close together. Now I do sound like I’m complaining. And for that I apologize… 

My tired kitty.

I have to admit something that I don’t like to admit. I don’t like to admit it because it makes me feel like I’m weak. And I don’t like to admit it because, not only does it make me look weak, it sounds like I’m complaining. And when one’s complaining, it often makes them sound ungrateful.

But here it goes:

I. Am. Tired.

There. I said it. I admit it. I am tired.

I’ve had a great year so far. It also has been challenging — but not in a bad way.

I just think the stress from the capital campaign and restructuring of the Order part of our calling as elders in the United Methodist Church has finally caught up with me.

We recently wrapped up a rather busy weekend. And the day I am writing this, this morning was pretty hectic. It’s 2 pm and I think I finally caught my breath from this morning. And am taking in the smell of coffee and waiting for the caffeine to jumpstart my thought process as I finally begin my sermon preparation. To be completely honest with you, I don’t know why this morning was so frantic. But it was. I was. 

I figure the best way to catch my breath was to start with my morning devotionals (at 2pm), and I always enjoy the smell of coffee as I begin to settle my soul. If God had a fragrance, I think God would smell like coffee. Good coffee. 

I am currently using Solo by Eugene Peterson and today’s devotion was from Leviticus 22:1-8, where God ends each phrase with “I am God.”
Eugene writes “Perhaps you will repeat to your soul ‘he is God.'” Which stirred something deep within my heart. 

Then I wrote in my personal journal (where I can really be honest):

He is God. I am not. And I need to constantly live in that place.

I am far too self-dependent. That’s great if I were leading a business. But I am not. This is God’s ministry and I am to lead the people to God’s vision and purpose, not mine. And because this is God’s ministry, I should consistently have conversations with God to make sure I am on the same page with him; going where he is guiding us. There is no such thing as “I can do this on my own with God” because what I’m really saying is, “I can do this on my own. And I better add ‘with God’ because I’m a pastor.”

Then I started reading a couple of entries from RealLivePreacher.com (really to procrastinate) and I came across this section where he talks about the hymn Be Thou My Vision:

I am constantly found guilty of the sin of words. Vulgarity is not my downfall, though I am vulgar. My sin is having words that are far more beautiful than my life.

How graceful are those whose lives outshine their words.

Perhaps my life will catch up to my mouth someday. Perhaps my body will catch up to my heart, my hands to my eyes, my feet to my soul.

I have nothing to offer the Creator but myself. Here I am. I have nothing to claim but grace. I want more from life than I deserve and have given back less than I should.

I cannot see the path. I know not the way. I have not avoided the obstacles. Blinded and uncertain, I have only this prayer: Be Thou my vision.

Last month, I was talking with my spiritual director about the days during of the Capital Campaign.

I shared with her that every morning, I would get up and drive to the beach and sit there and pray.

She asked me to share more about the mornings spent at the beach, like what I do and/or say/pray. I told her, I would usually just sit and take in the moment. Take in the sights, the smells, and the sounds. I would listen to a couple of praise songs, particularly Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) because 1) I was at the ocean (duh) and 2) the lyrics really reflected my prayers. My main prayer was that I would not get caught up in numbers. That I would find success in God rather than the results and that failure won’t cripple my heart and success would not inflate my ego.

She asked, “When was the last time you went to the beach to pray?”

I responded, “When the Capital Campaign was over.”

She observed that my face lit up as I was talking about the prayers at the beach. She could see how excited I was and how much that meant to me and asked, “Why haven’t you prayed at the beach recently?”

It was a question I was not expecting. Or more truthfully, maybe it was a question that I was trying to avoid. I knew the answer. And I didn’t want to say it. I could lie to her. But, the truth is that I’d be lying to myself and God. I hated the answer I had to give, but there was no point in lying about it. 

“Because, I’m not as desperate as I was during the Capital Campaign.”

In the Bible study I wrote for the Converge series, I talked about how often we only pray to God when we needed something. The other days we go on as if God is nothing but a distant memory or a friend who has moved far away, but we occasionally keep in touch. But as soon as we’re in a bind; as soon as we need something, we seek God. 

My sin, I am realizing, is that my words are far more beautiful than my life.

If I may, let me let you in on a secret about us pastors:

We’re really bad at self care — especially our spiritual self care.

A lot of times it’s because of ego: I’m a pastor. I’m beyond that. I went to seminary. I get paid to be spiritual. I know what I’m doing. etc, etc.

Sometimes, it’s because people will think we’re lazy. In a world that equates success with busyness, taking time to be still and pray seems like a God-awful waste of time.
“We’re not paying the pastor to pray!” some may think.
“We don’t have time to sit down and read books and be still and pray! We’re obviously overpaying our pastor” others may think.

But most of the times, it’s because (contrary to popular belief) we are busy (and not just on Sundays, mind you). And we also fall into the trap that busyness means that we’re being good and effective pastors.
So, then our priorities aren’t in order.
And just like many, many, many, many people, when our plates get way too full, God is the first thing to fall off the full plate.
Which no can really afford, especially us pastors.

So then begins this vicious cycle where we rely on our strength.
We rely on our reputation.
We power on through one meeting after the next.
We open the Bible only to see what Sunday’s sermon will be.
We pray more to ourselves than to God for inspiration.

On top of that, there are far more pressing things, people, issues, meetings than my own spiritual needs. And this is where ego comes to play, “I’m good. I’m a pastor” we tell ourselves. 

We tell ourselves, everyone, anyone, I can do this own my own… with God.
Which is us really saying, “I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own.”
And we get defensive and short with folks who tell us, “You look tired.” (How desperately we want to respond, “So’s your face” to their comment. No? Just me? Well, so’s your face).

And after it’s too late, do we realize, “Hey, wait. I can’t do this on my own.” And we see that we preachers have been running beyond empty; beyond fumes; and that we’ve been doing it for a long, long time.
And we’re beyond exhausted. Maybe even beyond repair.
“Where is God?” we may wonder.

Truthfully, I’m tired because I’ve been doing this on my own.

I’ve been running full speed ahead and conquering one task after the other, and sprinkling God here and there, because, after all, I am a pastor and this is a church. 

I’ve been taking on the yoke of the church and of myself which is becoming a heavier, heavier burden. All the while, I’m telling, teaching, preaching to folks to take on the yoke of Jesus that is light. Stop being a human doing and take a moment to be in the presence of God and bask in God’s love and realize that there’s more to life than just doing, doing, doing, doing.

Which is why Gordon’s confession that “my sin is having words that are far more beautiful than my life” really struck a nerve.

I am tired. But it’s not something that will be remedied from sleeping in and vegging out for a week on TV and things on Netflix (which is something I love to do, btw). 

It is not that I am tired from a lack of sleep or rest. It is that my soul is desperately yearning for God. And in my hubris, I’ve been denying the one thing that I’ve been needing more than anything else.

What’s more humbling is that my wife was keen to this far earlier than I was. She would mention that I’m running ragged. That I’m not looking so fresh. I couldn’t see what she saw because I had blinders on. And I thought I was okay. Hell, I convinced myself I was okay and that the Wife was just looking out for me and being thoughtful and caring. And I am always so fresh and so clean (clean).

And perhaps that’s part of hubris, too.

What I need to do (outside of listen to my wife more) is to consistently remind myself that God is God. I am not.
There’s a fine line between following the Messiah and becoming the messiah for your people.
God is God.
I am not.

And I have to live in that truth and have my world shaped by the premise that I am not God and I never will be.

I’m done admitting and complaining. I do feel better. I guess confession is good for the soul.

But I know, now, what I need to do.

I need to find my purpose and my being and my identity in Christ Jesus, and in Christ alone.
Not in what I do or what I can accomplish or what I can offer.

I have to practice better Sabbath habits — in that Sabbath isn’t a day off to be lazy. To veg out. To sleep in. Though those are very fine things to do on the Sabbath — things that your body needs.
I need to find better Sabbath habits for my soul. To spend that time to intentionally (re)connect with God. To be in God’s presence. To be loved.

Sabbath goes beyond just physical rest.
I need “coffee” for my soul, if you will.

I’m tired. But I’m not burned out. I’m not beyond repair. I’m okay. Really. I promise.
I just needed a reminder that God is in control. And more often than not, that’s reassuring to know.

I cannot see the path. I know not the way. I have not avoided the obstacles. Blinded and uncertain, I have only this prayer: Be Thou my vision.

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