When my son was ten months old, I found myself at a point of ministry burnout. The adjustment to motherhood—combined with working on my Masters in Pastoral Studies and a few too many ministry commitments to teach courses and to lead retreats—had me exhausted and overwhelmed. It took some work to give myself permission to do so, but I finally decided to take steps to limit my commitments. As I entered my period of rest, I found four words coming up in prayer over and over again:
My body needed rest, and my soul did too. I gave myself permission to nap and rest when I could. I also began physically moving again. Exercise energized my body both physically and mentally. I knew I needed to do some non-church-related stuff and play. My life was off-kilter, swayed heavily towards ministry commitments. I gave myself permission to engage in activities that would offer balance to my life. I read books on topics other than faith and spirituality. I tried new recipes. I played in our yard. I made it a point to get together with friends.
In addition, I spent time processing what led me to this point of burnout, using tools such as journaling, spiritual direction, and talking with close, trusted, soul-friends. And above all, I knew I needed to take the time to pray, to feed my soul and spirit, to build my relationship with God so that I could continue to feed others. Even with a young child at home, I honored my commitment to my annual silent retreat.
Those words and that experience from four years ago have not left me. They are my own personal recipe for tackling burnout and the tiredness that occasionally seeps into my professional ministry work. I am leaning on the wisdom from that experience now in another period of much-needed rest. Those four words come into my life time and time again, often with emphasis on one of the four words.
Which of these four words are you called to focus on right now? To rest? To play? To process? To pray?