I have considered taking a second job recently – as a computer and electronics repairman. No, I essentially know nothing about how they work – I assume it is all magic and gremlins. But I have found the secret of fixing 99.9% of electronic problems.
Is your computer acting funny? Turn it off and turn it back on. A reboot will likely make the glitch disappear. Smart phone acting dumb? Reboot and its IQ returns to normal. Some problems go beyond that, but relatively few.
Now, it is time for me to try a personal reboot. I’m not sure if it will work quite as easily as it does with computers, but I’m on a personal reboot journey. A month or so ago, my wife said to me, “Dave, you are burned out.” That can’t be. Not Super-Dave the Mega-Preacher!
So, for a little fun I did a Google search on ministerial burnout. I was surprised that they didn’t have a picture of me beside the list of symptoms. Everything I have experienced recently was listed on the page. I found an article from Churchlink that was very helpful. Here are the symptoms that were listed. This one actually was not focused just on ministerial burnout, but the broader problem.
(1) Decreased energy -‘keeping up the speed’ becomes increasingly difficult;
(2) feeling of failure in vocation;
(3) reduced sense of reward in return for pouring so much of self into the job or project;
(4) a sense of helplessness and inability to see a way out of problems; and
(5) cynicism and negativism about self, others, work and the world generally.
As I researched, I realized something that I’m not sure is scientific. I think that burnout is just another name for depression. I’m a preacher so I can’t be depressed. I minister to depressed people, so when it hits me, I call it burnout. The symptoms are pretty similar.
I’m not going to talk about the circumstances of my life that have put me in this place. It was a combination of not taking care of my body, high stress and dumb mistakes in handling my problems. Life is hard. The last few years have been hard on me and eventually, the pressure got to me. As I began to struggle, I isolated myself from others and the thing just snowballed. I’ve been functional. I do my job. I’ve never considered suicide though there were a few times I felt a good coronary would be blessing.
But I finally realized that I had almost completely lost my joy in life. I’ve always been a fun-loving, laugh-a-lot, cut-up kinda guy. And I couldn’t realize the last time I really felt like smiling much. I would wake up on Sunday dreading going to church to preach and preaching is the thing I’ve always loved to do. I’ve always said that I do everything else I do in the ministry because that is what I have to do so they will let me preach on Sunday. And when I began to dread standing in the pulpit, I knew something was wrong.
Why I Am Baring My Soul
Enough of the burnout autopsy. I’m writing this for two reasons. First, those of us who are hired holy men sometimes suffer from depression just like those laypersons who lack our super powers. I think that it was my pride, my unwillingness to admit that I had let this thing get this far, my refusal to admit I had a problem that brought me to the point I’m at.
We aren’t supermen, men. We are servants of God with feet of clay. We lust sometimes. We love the world too much. We let our focus drift from the source of life and joy. We are vulnerable. It doesn’t do us or anyone else any good when we assume that we are above the problems that plague those “regular” folks.
My second reason is that I want you to know why things might be a little different around SBC Voices for the next couple of weeks.
I am blessed with a group of deacons who responded when I confessed my failure and need to them. They gave me some time off. I will not preach again until the end of the month. This will be the longest I have ever gone without filling a pulpit in 30 years.
So, I’m rebooting. I’m off on a “fall leaves” tour with my wife this weekend, nearGalena,Illinois. Next week, I intend to head out east and see some family. I’m going to be away from the office, away from the phone, away from the stress and away from the job.
I’m taking my biggest problem with me, of course. It’s not the stress and the problems and the conflict – it’s my failed reactions to them. I know that. But I’m on a reboot journey. I’m going to try to reboot my body (seeing the doctor on Monday). I’m going to try to kick the exercise into high gear (well, maybe I’ll start in low gear). I’m trying to reboot my heart, my spirit and my walk with God. This problem has grown over many months and won’t be solved by a three-week mini-sabbatical. But it’s a start. I hope to shut down, reboot and start operating properly again.
What It Means for SBC Voices
What that is going to mean is that I won’t be as present on the blog for the next few weeks. I’m not resigning or disappearing. I’ll still schedule posts in the evening and even write something when the spirit hits me. I’m just not going to be monitoring every conversation.
Being the editor of this blog one of my great privileges. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. This blog has given me an audience I never really had. I love what I do here. But it can be stressful.
Especially moderation! The hardest thing about overseeing a blog such as this is deciding when a comment should be deleted. I go back and forth between my “I’m gonna clean this joint up” phases to my more laissez faire “you show some self-control and take responsibility for your own comments” phases. Invariably, people get angry about being deleted. It’s one of the stressors in my life. I’m just not going to be around to moderate comments much over the next couple of weeks.
One option, of course, would be for everyone to just behave themselves. Well…yeah. So, I’m adding a few more “moderators” to the mix and they are going to delete comments as they see fit. What that will mean is that there will be even more inconsistency than there already is. Their instructions are that they should not try to figure out what I would do, but to simply follow their own convictions and sense of justice. One may be stricter than another.
Life is unfair. I’ve had my comments deleted on other blogs. You live through it.
I hope SBC Voices will continue on without much change – thought-provoking and Christ-honoring articles on a wide variety of topics and in a wide variety of styles. We have a unique place in the blogging world. We are a “Baptist Community.” There are a few blogs that get more hits than we get, but I know of no Baptist blogs that have a more lively comment stream – for good or ill. We want to keep it that way.
You just won’t see my lovely face on my gravatar beside my comments as much. Just thought you might like to know what is going on. If you pray for me, I wouldn’t hate that.
One last thing to my brothers in ministry. You do not benefit by pretending you are above burnout or even depression. The best thing is to handle things better so you don’t get where I am. But if you reach this point, get help. Don’t be a hero. Burning yourself out in service to Christ is not the best way to honor him.
Some links to good resources on burnout:
Frankly, just google “ministerial burnout” and you will have no shortage of resources.