below is a letter from a friend of mine to his congregation. he is a pastor of a large church who found himself in ICU for exhaustion and her casualties. his transparency is both challenging and convicting. more mercy!
I am writing to thank you for your prayer and for your allowing me to
speak with candor about wife and me and the lessons that we have learned since our hospitalization. We continue to search providence for a better grasp of what it means to be human, married, and in ministry. We are far from being finished our study of ourselves and our marriage and ministry. At the risk of being a little presumptuous, I wanted to write to ask you to continue to pray that God will stoke the fires of our souls as we continue this self-evaluation.
Concerning being human, we have learned just a few things and
we’re trying now to apply them. As simple as it may sound, both
work and rest are commanded by God, and to do one to the exclusion of the other takes us into the realm of sin. We must do both and do both faithfully or we are not truly obeying our King. Second, in order to love His Bride, our Lord Jesus Christ left His glory, His dwelling in heaven, His place of utter perfection and delight in union with His Father and the Spirit. Therefore, in order to love my wife as Christ loves the Church, I must discern what is to me “glory” and leave it regularly in order to love
Barb. Frankly, ministry is my glory. Third, Jesus left His glory
not for that which was attractive within us to Him. Rather, He left His
glory for that which was repulsive in us to Him. My wife should sense
that I am willingly leaving the most glorious portions of life for me for her in her deepest weakness, most frightening struggle with what she suspects is repulsive to me.
In terms of ministry, we have learned that when we give out of
resources that we do not have, then it is not sacrifice but lack of wisdom, if not actual folly. Barb and I have often pushed ourselves beyond the limits of health because of the demands of ministry and have gone to the margins of well-being and beyond. This actually becomes a kind of dishonesty, for inside we are feeling a sense of emptiness and disquiet as we meet with individuals who are deeply hurting, and at times actually fight resentment and distraction within while we are sitting with them without, and are dishonest about how embattled and empty we are feeling. The Lord has been pleased to strike straight blows with crooked sticks like us, but that does not mean that we should make crooked sticks normative for His hand to use. Hence, when we have reached our limits, we are learning to rest in ministry. The measure of reaching our limits has been difficult to discern. Among the things we are measuring is as follows: When the two of us can no longer be in the present with the person or persons to whom we are seeking to grant service, but rather are either agonizing over some failure or difficulty in the past, or worrying about some inevitable difficulty in the future, instead of being fully present to the individual, we have likely crossed a bound into exhaustion. We don’t know if you can identify with the loss of “being in the present,” but it is discernable to us. It’s palpable and frighteningly regular. Sometimes we are agonizing over the large number of people to whom we have given nothing but crumbs of the gospel because we’ve been too exhausted to plumb its depths when they came to us for help. Sometimes we worry about the future and our inability to sustain the level of intense ministry that has marked us for very long, and therefore actually disappear from concerted, intentional concentration with the person who is seated right in front of us. Our ability to enjoy as well as to serve is dissipated. Hence, when we lose our present, we’re in trouble.
We have been rising from bed to exercise, and eating less. Wife
has lost thirty pounds and I have lost twenty, and we continue to seek to trim down and steward better the brokenness of our lives with faithfulness.
I remember Robert Murray McCheyne having said, “God gave me a
ministry and He gave me a horse to do that ministry and I’ve killed the
horse.” That’s a rough paraphrase of his reference to his
body as the steed upon which God meant for him to ride in service.
Instead of caring for the steed, he had beaten it into the ground and died
before he ever saw thirty years of age. Although we have both long passed
thirty, we have lived with a similar disregard for the “steed” and
we are trying to care for it far more faithfully.
I place these things before you for prayer, and I ask that you would
lift the two of us before the throne of grace as we stand together in ministry for the glory of God, even though our paths do not cross nearly as regularly as I would like. Thank you for remembering wife and me. We are your debtors.
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