Punching Monday in the face. (Why your pastor might be depressed today.)


Mondays are the worst, right? They just punch you in the face.

Unless you punch Monday in the face first.

(Not advocating violence per se, except that winning your heart decisively — and winning their hearts — is the key to finding joy, even on a Monday.)

Fight the good fight Winning the battle on Monday starts with surveying the land: What. Just. Happened. (?)

As a preaching pastor, I can wake up with a “case of the Mondays.” You ever feel that way? Lethargic, not wanting to move. Tough to get motivated. In a malaise, mentally and emotionally. 1

This experience is not confined to pastors, and it’s not just a spiritual thing. Rather, the root of this Monday feeling comes from what Archibald Hart calls “Post-adrenaline depression.” He describes it this way:

“…what I was experiencing was a profound shutdown of my adrenal system, following a period of high stress or demand. It was as if my adrenal system were saying, ‘That’s enough abuse for now; let’s give it a break,’ and shut down so that I had no choice in the matter.”

While this might seem like a mini-crisis, this slow-down provides a helpful clue to something we all need: active rest. Have you noticed that when you lay in bed all day you  feel achy later, while going for a brief walk actually energizes your body? Your body needs rest, but active rest is better.

The impetus (and partial title) for this post came from Mike Leake, who points out:

“This really isn’t unique to pastors. Even if you aren’t a pastor I’m guessing that you have had times of a great spiritual high, only to find yourself the next day feeling like a total schmuck.”

I’d say if you’re never honest about when you feel like a “schmuck,” then you have other problems.

Yet we need not be surprised or sidelined about needing to work at a slower pace in our jobs. While we seem to naturally swerve between over-confidence and despair, let us find a new rhythm to combat the inevitable fatigue and mental battles. Continue reading

  1. Surprise: not all pastors preach regularly, and so until the last three years hit me I didn’t realize the weight of the day after Sunday. Until this new season with Renew Church I was just as much a pastor/shepherd, but I did not preach regularly so this is all new-ish to me.
 

Spiritual experience.

Do you know anyone who lives in their head? As if every emotion is secondary to just ‘figuring it all out’? How about someone who seems to respond emotionally but not logically to trouble and personal challenges.

I love thinking about the connect of head and heart, and how Christ refuses to let our faith reside in either/or (it’s both/and). Why does He do that? Because we’re whole people, though many lack wholeness — okay, we all lack wholeness — in our fallen human condition. So the connection of our beliefs (head) and emotions (heart) is closer than we realize. And the disconnect is more real than we imagined.

We see this when a friend is depressed. And when we have no words to describe how we feel; we just have to return to the Gospel and sing it back into our souls. And connect our deepest passions to God’s good gifts. This is where we begin to truly experience the Spirit.

So what makes for true spiritual experience?

“Spiritual experience that does not arise from God’s word is not Christian experience. Other religions offer spiritual experiences. Concerts and therapy sessions can affect our emotions. Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel. Through the Spirit the truth touches our hearts, and that truth moves our emotions and affects our wills.
This also means that Bible study and theology that do not lead to love for God and a desire to do His will—to worship, tears, laughter, excitement, or sorrow—have gone terribly wrong. True theology leads to love, mission, and doxology (1 Timothy 1:5, 7, 17). We should not expect an adrenaline rush every time we study God’s word. We all express our emotions in different ways. But when we study God’s word we should pray that the spirit of God will not only inform our hearts but also inspire our hearts.”
—Tim Chester & Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, 31.

Do you agree? How does engaging God in His Word really change you?

 

Influence: beyond impact.

My generation grow up being told we can make an IMPACT. I’m realizing its far better to grow and wield INFLUENCE.

Impact is more apparent, easily measured, and makes us feel better about ourselves. Business people, coaches, and churches all talk about “making an impact.” Few talk about how impactful things cause collateral damage (like meteorites and car collisions). Or how people wanting to make an name for themselves and leave their mark on history do things to compensate for their insecurity like have their face engraved on money — as the Roman Caesars did.

We built up to impact, but then what?

Influential things cannot be as easily measured, but their effect reaches far beyond the moment of interaction. Influential people listen more than talk, give more than they receive. The people who have influenced me the most in life are those who weren’t aiming to make an impact; they were just being faithful and had the courage to persevere in dire circumstances. It sounds so exciting to make an impact, but my money is now on the people who are so compelling by their serving and sacrifice, that their words carry great weight.

Influential people grow towards impact and then disappear, pointing people past themselves. Impact was never the goal, but a byproduct, a result of their steadiness, consistency, courage and generosity. Influential people may feel they haven’t done much or “not enough,’ though those who get caught up in their wake all agree the influence of their life was immeasurable.

Truly influential people have come to realize it’s not great talents that God blesses, as much as great likeness to Jesus.

  • Who has influenced you?
  • Have you recently expressed gratitude to that person?
  • How are you influencing the people around you? 

 

Photo credits:

“The scars of impacts on Mars” by europeanspaceagency

“12 Caesars” by Joe Geranio

“Wake” by Beardy Git

 

4 steps to good decisions.

From Matt Perman, “4 Steps to Good Decision Making“:

  1. Understand the objectives
  2. Consider the alternatives
  3. Consider risk
  4. Decide

He summarizes: “Very basic, to be sure. But it is surprising how often we go into important decisions haphazardly, without taking an intentional (albeit simple) approach.”

For an over-analyzer like me — who thinks through opportunities, risks, and rewards on every little thing — this streamlines things. Plus, for those of us prone to living in the past (“hindsight is always 20/20” is actually a dumb adage, don’t you think?), second-guessing our decisions that are not of a moral nature, we can confidently move into the future knowing that no real damage has been done. When you consider the options to good decision-making, a little process is worth the risk.

Go … you are now free to make good decisions. (In the good will of God.)

 

The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It is to lose yourself.

Borrowing from the post this morning, here’s the conclusion to David Brooks’ NY Times op-ed column:

Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.

(Emphasis added.)

 

Some of the best advice: it is not about you.

graduationNew college grads enter a world full of uncertainties, in a system not structured to automatically achieve their perceived “success.” Even in a first world, the job market will not cater to new grads’ every whim. And yet, what consistent message has the millennial generation heard? It’s all about you.

They’ve been coached, tutored and coddled into thinking the world is in fact their oyster. Who’s to blame them if we’ve trained them to think their role is the key one, and we’re all just minor characters in their big story? The vocabulary of ‘self,’ of ‘freedom’ and ‘autonomy’ are what makes up an illusory world, one we’ve built for them. (‘They’ are us, and we are them.) Perhaps I’m a bit cynical, but the consistent message spun by boomers to their kids (in general) will actually lead to their demise. The problem here is not early twentysomethings, it’s the raw bill of goods we’ve sold them. We have told them half-truths we needed to say to feel good about ourselves.

Once again, David Brooks of the NY Times hits the nail on the head:

Worst of all, they are sent off into this world with the whole baby-boomer theology ringing in their ears. If you sample some of the commencement addresses being broadcast on C-Span these days, you see that many graduates are told to: Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself. This is the litany of expressive individualism, which is still the dominant note in American culture.

But, of course, this mantra misleads on nearly every front.

Continue reading

 

Happy Tensions: WHOs & DOs

I’ve been re-posting some of my favorite articles. Here’s one you may enjoy.

What do you think Christianity is? How do you read the Bible?

It is quite easy to think of the Bible as a book of rules — things to DO. Yet, it is far greatest The Story of God, of His coming near to us, and in that way is not primarily about us. The Bible is about GOD. And not just facts, figures and fables — as if God were a science experiment, a idea to be calculated, quantified and categorized. In reality, God has acted in history — in this real world — and as we read Scripture we discover the stories are true, the characters are generally failures, and God is always faithful. That’s step one, reading the Bible as if it’s about God and not just “me.” Of course, it must be experienced, taken into our whole lives, if we are to learn what God says.

There’s another needed emphasis, more likened to a simple priority: know the WHOs before the DOs. Jesus came to show us the way by BEING the way. No five step (or 12) plan for salvation here (though obedience and life-change is progressive and gradual). He’s the plan, the whole plan. So when we read, we see the what, why, how, and especially the Who of God’s Story.
Continue reading