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I’ve seen this meme pop up on Facebook a few times in the last bit and it’s gotten some good traction: “It’s not about how tired you are. It’s about how tired you’re making everyone else.” – My husband explaining bedtime to the kids.

My kids have the bedtime routine pretty well down now, but I can certainly remember the exhaustion of the earlier years with our three daughters. The diaper changes and stories, drinks of water and prayers, tears and really tough questions like, “Why do we have necks?” When my oldest was nearly three, she launched into this monologue (thank goodness Facebook keeps track of these stories! I would never have remembered): “What’s gonna happened? What’s gonna happened?! After I go to sleep, what’s gonna happened? Are we going to go to the store? What’s gonna happened at the store? Is it going to rain… or snow? What’s gonna happened after I go to sleep?” Apparently I tried to finish things off by reciting her bedtime prayer and she pointed at my face, said “No! I’m talking to you!” and kept going. She was not tired. But she was making us tired. 

Lately, I have been wondering if I, in my pastoring, am like a child at bedtime, refusing to go to sleep. Maybe I’m not tired, but maybe, just maybe, the problem is how tired I’m making everyone else. 

A pastor friend of mine is taking some time away from vocational ministry to do more hands on parenting. She told me recently that she was EXHAUSTED by all the special things her church was doing every Sunday. “Being a church member and not a pastor for awhile is making me really crotchety about how much we expect of our church members (and not expectations about actual important spiritual life and commitment, but about the busy work of church.)”

I love my work so much. Every time my elders express their concern about the potential for burn out, I assure them over and over again that I am paying attention to my rhythms of rest and work and that I am not burning out. (See this great animated video summary of how burn-out might actually be more about a lack of personal relationship boundaries and less about too much work.)

Yet perhaps it’s not about how tired I am. Perhaps it’s about how tired I’m making everyone else with my energy and initiatives, my questions about “what’s gonna happened?” What’s gonna happened if I go to sleep?

AND could it be that I am tired? Like a child who claims that she’s not tired at bedtime, perhaps I really am tired. 

Tired of making all the plans and living my life on purpose and measuring my progress. Tired of setting goals and going at them with gusto. 

Maybe I need to take a page from Kenneth Stanley and Joel Lehman’s book, Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned. Engaging the book in his own article, Michael Simmons writes positively about people who don’t set goals: “When we look back at many of the most creative people in history … they seem to operate in a completely different way. They pursue curiosities, sometimes purposely not thinking of immediate applications. They embrace serendipity. At certain points in their career, they were even considered aimless or seen as lazy underperformers.”

Or maybe I need to take a page from Jesus’ book. Mark Buchanan writes in The Rest of God:

[Jesus] lived life with the clearest and highest purpose. Yet he veered and strayed from one interruption to the next, with no apparent plan in hand other than his single, overarching one: get to Jerusalem and die… So that’s it, the sum of Christ’s earthly vocation: he wandered and he blessed (pp. 78-79).

In my Lenten sermon series, I have preached messages on the spiritual disciplines of getting lost (wandering), purposeful work (still important!), saying no (resting), and this coming Sunday, pronouncing blessing (it is what Jesus did, after all). This blog post just sits in the middle of all that.

If you are weary and heavy laden… or if you are wearying people and laying heavy burdens on them, I bless you today with the rest of God. May you receive it and pass it on.

Heidi S. De Jonge

Heidi S. De Jonge is the pastor of Westside Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Kingston, Ontario. She and her husband, Tim, a CRC chaplain, parent three grade school daughters. Heidi enjoys cake decorating, cycling, and digital scrapbooking.

3 Comments

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    Marvelous.

  • Cathy Smith says:

    Heidi, this is sensitive and right on! As a sometime writer, I grapple with the fact that my soul goes into dormant, less ambitious periods. It might seem like laziness or an unproductive use of time, but it’s usually (I discover after the fact) an occasion to recoup imagination and sprout new creative energy. Your post has particular applicability, it seems to me, in small church settings where the same people basically rotate through all the necessary roles and just get burned out. To my mind, this speaks to the oft-lamented absence of seniors in volunteer roles. Speaking somewhat for myself, I know that there’s a depletion that comes from a lifetime of unrelenting service. Thanks for being alert to this and addressing it so wisely.

  • Ken Boonstra says:

    Love it! “Not all who wander are lost.” When I served in campus ministry we used to use the phrase “loitering with intent.” Eyes open. God alert. with one goal – wondering where God was in the mix of everything. (P.S. – the video was great)

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