This is now the fourth time I have sat down to write this weeks reflection. I have been doing some useful thinking about the place of belief in shaping our behaviour, however no matter how hard I have tried, I simply cannot write about it.
Faith Reflections is my attempt to reflect on the real journey of faith, and this week in order for that to be true I need to share about what this week has actually been like…
It was a privilege to officiate at the service to celebrate Rod Hoople’s life on Saturday, and then to preach on Sunday, however with these two things mixed with the process of teaching a foundations course and preparing to move back to Australia in three months, I found myself in a bit of a daze. I must confess that I only just realized this afternoon why that was (sometimes I’m a bit slow). I was emotionally tired.
In my experience the kind of tiredness that comes after experiencing intense emotion is quite a different kind of tiredness than the outcome of sleep deprivation. When I haven’t slept, my eyes feel heavy and my whole body feel like lead. When I am emotionally tired, it is more like I am in a fog. Both are difficult to manage, however when I know I didn’t sleep, I am more aware about why I am feeling the way I am.
Often when I am emotionally tired, it can take a while to realize it, and that can be challenging both for me as I feel frustrated with how difficult I find doing things that I normally find easy, and also for the people around me who wonder why I am more emotionally distant than they are used to.
Being a Pastor is an unusual job. It is a job where you need to come from your heart most of the time, and as such it is a job where becoming emotionally tired is a common experience. Emotional tiredness though is not always a function of my job. Big change can produce it, as can losing a loved one or significant conflict. When things weren’t simple in my old role with Fusion Australia I think I might have had a few years of emotional tiredness backed up on each other.
I like it when I am fully healthy, rested and able to engage with life wholeheartedly. I feel like I should be like that all the time, and will often plan my days and weeks assuming that level of capacity will be available to me all the time.
Emotional tiredness is not a disability. I can still work, relate and do what I need to do… I just do them more slowly, less spontaneously and with much more effort than when I am at full capacity… hence the attempt to write this blog four times before I gave up trying to write about what I though I “should” write about, and simply began to write about my experience of the last week.
It is nice now that emotional tiredness is not an everyday thing, however I am becoming aware that it is something that I need to be more conscious of.
I am fascinated that one of Jesus’s most miraculous actions happened so he could get the space he needed to recover from emotional tiredness. In Mark 6:14-29 we see Jesus coping with the news that his cousin had been killed while at the same time meeting his disciples who had been out practising what he had been teaching them. It is little wonder that he said to them:
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:31-32 )
I don’t think it is reading too much into the text to see Jesus wanting the space to re-group and let the dust settle. I know that feeling. I also know the feeling of responsibilities that don’t go away when you don’t have much fuel in the tank:
But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:33-34)
Emotional tiredness is not an excuse for to be self-centred. Jesus makes a decision to care when emotionally he probably wanted to rest. It was in this context that the miracle of feeding the five thousand happened, but that is not the miracle I am talking about. It was after that that this happened:
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. (Mark 6:45-47)
Jesus sent the boys on ahead because he needed some space. He needed to come back to his Father in prayer to re-group and re-charge. It was this decision that required him to walk on water in order to catch up with the boat.
If the Son of God had to take a stroll on a lake in order to recharge, why do I think I won’t need to make choices to recharge my own emotional and spiritual batteries?
There are things I can do to re-charge my spiritual and emotional batteries, but I actually need to do it. There is no real way to shortcut the process.
As human beings we were built to require a Sabbath… a day a week of re-orientation, re-storation and re-creation. It seems that once every four or five years God has to remind me of that fact, and this is one of those times.
I’m glad it’s ok to have days where there isn’t a lot in the tank, and I am glad that God is continually inviting us to re-orientate, re-store and re-create. I know I need it.