Friday, August 16, 2013

Running the Ministry Marathon

Photo Credit: JohnKochmanski (Creative Commons)
"It's a busy season."

That's what I tell people when they ask how my summer has been going. But if I'm honest, what season isn't busy? What makes this season particularly more rushed, hurried, hectic, and full?

Between making a significant programmatic and cultural shift in our church's youth ministry, the beginning of grad school at Regent, preaching in our main services, speaking at a summer camp, leading our children's ministry day camp (aka VBS), preparing for our new ministry year in the fall, and still navigating living as an immigrant in a new country, it's been particularly full. Not to mention my pursuit of being a great husband and father, let alone a child of God.

Confession: I am running at an unsustainable pace.

I've looked ahead into the future, and if I continue at the pace I'm currently going, my spiritual and emotional legs are going to give out on me.

But here's what often happens in these moments: I tell myself, "it's only a season. When the fall comes, things will settle down." Perhaps they will. Or perhaps in three months I'll be telling myself, "when Christmas break comes, then things will settle down." Or spring break. Or summer. And now I've come full circle, back to next summer, which even now is already getting filled up.

If I'm going to keep running in this ministry marathon, I need to learn how to keep a sustainable pace.

I watched To The Wonder this week--a wondrous visual feast of a film that has almost zero dialogue and consists mostly of Olga Kurylenko twirling around in circles--and found myself fascinated with one character, Father Quintana. His quiet meditations on the nature of God and love are partnered with his ministry to the broken and marginalized people of Oklahoma. He's not jaded, but he also isn't joyful. He goes about his ministry with aloof and tired eyes, worn down from years of serving but not seeing or experiencing God in fresh ways.

I don't want to become Father Quintana, quietly going through the motions of ministry, worn down by years of running on empty. I want to remain engaged, fresh, loving, and joyful.

So I'm taking some steps. I'm canceling my classes at Regent for the foreseeable future. I'm marking off days on the calendar entirely devoted to family time. I'm trying to say "no" more often to things that are low on the priority list. I'm reading books that aren't just required for classes (though the books I'm reading for class are phenomenal.) I'm trying to get to bed earlier. I pray for strength often. I'm stretching more regularly, literally and spiritually, in order to loosen up and keep myself limber for the next section of the marathon.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1b-3)

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