Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Rev. Twitter

As the school year gets underway, and as things pick up at the church, I am finding out something quite interesting about myself. It happened this time last year, too, and so this is not just about starting a new position. What I am learning is this: when things get hectic at the church, I have trouble making myself read.

Perhaps this sounds strange. Let me say that this is not a physiological response. I can read (and obviously, write) and I do: the newspaper, the news, the blogs I follow. But when church life gets so crazy that I am forced to do one thing, and then another, and then another, and then look up and its time to go home . . . well, it does something to my brain. I start to think in thirty second increments, rather than in longer thoughts. I can give you three sentences on any topic you like, but don't ask me for sustained thoughts. I just don't know that I can offer them to you at present.

This constant changing-of-the-subject may be a survival mechanism for large church ministry, but it absolutely wrecks my reading life. I cannot read for more than a few minutes before I lose focus, feeling as if I need to move on to the next thing, as if I am missing doing something very important. I get so wound up during the day that when it is time to come home and settle in with a book, I lose focus.

It is as if I am turning into Twitter. I can give you 140 characters, but that's about it.

This mindset, of course, is not only unsustainable: it is ridiculous. People are not three sentences long; at best I can scratch the surface of thousands of people, like an evangelist who promises life-saving medicine in exchange for professions of faith. "Yes," is, of course, the answer to that question, and then you go on your way as if nothing happened other than receiving the medicine.

I can give you three sentences, but it is much harder for me, when this mindset hits, to go any deeper than that. When I am constantly on the go, thinking in short bursts, one after another, I am not much good to everybody and even less good to any one person.

Now, this is not to say I don't find the ministry life-giving. On the contrary, nearly every day in minstry confirms my calling.I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am genuinely happy, in a way that I did not know I could be. But I am having trouble making myself settle down, relax, and read. At best, I can plop in front of the television, and good grief, I'd rather be working.

What strategies do you use to "turn off?" I am happy to take time for self-care, but if I am not "turned off" during those times, what good are they?

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