I have, on many occasions, been known to bemoan those pastors who go and go and go and refuse to rest until they get sick. Having spent the last week two shades from miserable, I may have lost my cred on this issue.
To my credit, I think my nephew got me sick. We babysat last Friday for him and his sister, and coughing on me turned into something of a game. But I was so tired--and am so tired--that it is really no surprise that I ended up sick, no surprise that I had to quarantine myself for a couple of days just to rest enough to spend some time in the office. You go and go and go, and your immune system loses juice, and before you know it you have to get sick just so you can get some rest. It is pitiful.
And now, a week after first getting sick, I'm still tired, still worn out by noon. At this point I am just trying to get to Christmas. Thankfully, things are slow this week--I just need a Christmas eve sermon, and I am good. After Christmas, we'll sleep for a week, which is what I need.
It has been adjustment, to say the least, as I figure out the particular patterns of being a pastor. This is not to say that I feel overworked--truly, I am pretty good about cutting things off and saying it is time to go home. But I continue to be surprised that even as I am careful about taking care of myself, I still get worn down sometimes. In short, you cannot remove the stress from pastoral work; you can only manage it.
Maybe that sounds painfully obvious, but it has been a revelation to me. As someone who is good at dealing with stress--really!--I still get stressed, still occasionally lose sleep, still get worn down and sick and tired. Self-care is about more than just avoiding stress. It is about recognizing stress, getting appropriate rest, and not being consumed entirely by the rigors of the job.
So here’s to a restful Christmas and an inspired new year. Don’t look for me at midnight on the 31st; I will probably be asleep.