At the beginning of 'Falling upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life' Richard Rohr writes:
'I find that many, if not most, people and institutions remain stymied in the preoccupations of the first half of life. By that I mean that most people's concerns remain those of establishing their personal (or superior) identity, creating various boundary markers for themselves, seeking security, and perhaps linking to what seem like significant people or projects......But in my opinion, this first half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate. It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey. It is the raft but not the shore. If you realise that there is a further story, you might do the warm-up act quite differently, which would better prepare you for what follows. People at any age must know the whole ark of their life and where it is tending and leading'
An experienced Vicar pal of mine told me that he has noticed recently a few younger Vicars and planters he meets are starting to need help and encouragement as their first flurry of energy and enthusiasm dissipates. As I reflect on this for myself, I do see much more tendency to go for the 'lead at half time' goals rather than the far better one of 'still standing at the end'. This is not true of pastors alone. It's true of a culture that seeks to accumulate, consume and retire early but with no real idea or purpose behind what might be done with the precious and most important second half of the game that remains.
I also confess I am being humbled and shocked anew but the utter chaos that ensues when Solomon dies and finishes so badly. We are in 2 Kings in my BiOY and the mess, sin, rivalry and factionalism is truly devastating for the people of God. We far to easily mirror similar things- though hopefully not the sticky end Jezebel met in this mornings reading!
This post called 'Autoposy on a burned our pastor: 13 lessons' is worthy of some consideration if you want to avoid burnout and ask a few good questions of yourself:
- Are you taking a sabbath?
- Are you reading the Bible for yourself?
- Are you doing any exercise?
- Are you giving time to your marriage and children?
- Are you investing in developing your leadership skills?
- Are you taking a decent holiday?
- Are you committed to being a life-long learner?
- Are you learning to face and deal with conflict well?
I am by no means an expert on all this but I have been following Jesus for 23 years and many of the early years where mistake-ridden and painful for me. Let me recommend to you ten bits of reading that I have found helpful and resourcing for my soul down the years and you might want to put one of them on your summer reading list:
1. Finishing strong: I don't know of a better book for a man to read who wants to do the second half well
2. Leading from the inside out: This is a book about cultivating your inner life
3. A Resilient Life: Gordon MacDonald fell of his bicycle half way through but got back on it humbly and with courage.
4. A long obedience in the same direction: I recently gave this to someone and they keep quoting it back to me and to others which is always a good sign.
5. Leading on empty: I read this when I was feeling a bit burnt out on holiday in Switzerland. This contains some really helpful stuff on coping with choppy waters.
6. A Million miles in a thousand years: Helped me view my life as a story and an adventure.
7. Leading with a limp: Just the title should make you want to check this out.
8. The Letters of John Newton: There is that great scene in 'Amazing Grace' where Wilberforce goes to see his mentor Newton who is mopping the floor in his church. Reading these helped me realise that dead guys make great mentors if you seek them out.
9. The Circle Maker: This is a hopeful book and the chapter on 'Life Goals' will help you mark out what the second half ought to look like.
10. The Road we must travel: My most recent read of a book that might help me not burn out and one that gets a highly commended.
I also listen to this talk at least once a year.