Hard Work in an Easy Way

“Am I burned out?” I (Bill) asked. I help pastors care for their soul and not burn out but now I was drained and dry.

We’ve had COVID-19, quarantine, online church, racist killings, violent protests, and divisiveness in our communities. It’s been wave after wave of stress knocking us off our feet. Each time we get up only to get wiped out again!

For Kristi and me the pandemic and social unrest came in the midst of taking on new leadership weights that are part of Soul Shepherding’s growth.

The stress peaked one month ago. On top of the waves and weights, we led three Institute weeks in four weeks. This included making them COVID-safe and opening up an option to participate on Zoom. In the middle of this, my dad died. So the one week we weren’t doing an Institute that month I was with family, grieving, and led his memorial service at our home. (I shared about this in recent blogs.)

Then we did two long days of video recording. We filmed eight messages for our Journey of the Soul small group curriculum and eighteen for our Sabbatical Guide program. At different points, Kristi and I both melted down. At one point I walked away from the cameras and crew crying, “I can’t do this anymore! It’s too much for me!”

During those weeks of work, I kept collapsing into Jesus’ arms. I’d rest a while and pray. Then I’d get just enough energy to do the next thing. Sometimes we all experience too much stress and need support (Gal. 6:2).

But working till you collapse is the unhealthy habit of workaholic leaders. It’s my own history which led me to hit The Wall in burnout many years ago. I’m a Type A workaholic in recovery, but recently it felt like I’d lost the “in recovery” part!

I collapsed into a two-week vacation with Kristi. The needle on my soul’s engine had been in the red zone for too long.

What if I couldn’t rest? What if I wasn’t able to be emotionally present to Kristi? What if resting felt like endless emptiness and depression like it used to feel so many years ago? What if I was burned out?

I’ve talked to pastors and leaders who couldn’t recover and had to quit. Would that become me?

Thankfully, I got wonderful soul rest with Kristi hiking in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming and visiting Yellowstone’s Old Faithful and thermal pools. Friends listened to me, encouraged me, and prayed for me. And we enjoyed our family — including the birth of our first grandson Lincoln! (Follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see the pictures.)

On vacation, I found that the training in Jesus’ easy yoke that I had done before through counseling, soul care, and Sabbath days kicked in and I was able to rest and enjoy myself right away.

When I went back to work, I was thankful to see that indeed God had helped me to recalibrate back into my recovery self rhythm of resting in Jesus’ love first and then doing my work in his presence.

That’s Jesus’ easy yoke way of doing hard things (Matt. 11:25-30). Training in his yoke strengthens us to stay connected to his heart for us, including as we go through intense seasons of life being hit with extra stress, carrying extra weight, absorbing extra pain, or working extra hours.

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Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: This week, Bill and Kristi partner with the Doable Discipleship Podcast from Saddleback Church for a conversation on Sabbath. Sabbath takes practice! We can be tempted to abandon it, but it is an important practice to rest in God’s power. And it can be learned over time. Bill and Kristi offer tangible, helpful tools for joining Christ in his unhurried rhythms.

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