The Drive to Work - Part Two
If you’ve reached the point where you can see it, that’s good.
But it’s just the start.
Ministers who work too much often live in a state of denial, but perhaps you don’t. You know your hours are damaging you and those around you. And you want to change.
Time to examine the drivers that have been there for a long, long time.
Since you were young.
You probably know where this is going. It’s time to think about the most important people in your life: your parents (or caregivers). Until you have taken a long, hard look at how you were raised, you’ll never be able to understand why it is that you function the way you do.
So, let me introduce you to Tony. He’s the eldest of three, a typical eldest child. Diligent, earnest and rather serious. High standards have always been a part of his life. High standards require hard work. That’s just how the world works. His parents rarely affirmed him or valued his achievements, it was just expected. He came to faith in his late teens and now ministers in a church with a bottomless pit of needs. His sermons are carefully prepared but inside he’s dying. He feels that he will never meet the standards that he thinks God requires. He trots out the gospel, but it’s never really penetrated his soul. So he works hard in the subconscious hope that his deeds will be sufficient. For his God or his parents, he cannot distinguish.
Now meet Philip. He’s a middle child of five. His siblings are multi-talented, the older two excelling in their chosen professions. However, his youngest brother drained the home of all its emotional energy. While Phil was in his teen years, Bruce was occupying most of his parents’ attention. So Phil feels lost; he’s angry that no one seemed to notice his achievements, his awards, his A grades. In addition, his father worked ridiculous hours. Leaving early and returning home late, that’s the model he has observed his entire life. So now he leads a church. He works hard, following the model of his father. Work = life. He can’t seem to distinguish between ministry and life in general. It’s all just one constant flow. But at least now he’s noticed. And often appreciated. Nowadays, even his father notices him. But that will surely only last while he’s putting in 70-hour weeks.
Finally, meet Pete. Gregarious, charismatic Pete has a testimony to match any ex-offender’s. Rebellious during his teens, he spent time on the streets, kicked a heroine habit, left his faith and has now returned. He’s experienced true grace, but inside he desperately wants to compensate for his past. His parents say they forgive him, but his father seems distant. So he works to prove himself. He works to show he’s a new man. And if that means long hours, then so be it. The honest truth is that without his work, he doesn’t feel he deserves anything. So he must work. He must keep going. As with many addicts, he fears the dark and lonely places, which still pull at him. And work keeps those away. But at a cost.
You may or may not see yourself in one of these descriptions. But one thing is absolutely certain. If you work long hours, it’s an absolute certainty that your past is part of the explanation. It just is.
You may have ways of coping. You may have ways of rationalising your behaviour. But perhaps you’ve reached a point where you’re starting to see what’s driving the overwork. If that’s the case, then you’re in a good place. God’s answer to our fractured pasts is always the same.
His love and grace. Not the concepts. The reality of his abiding presence in our hearts. By his Spirit.
His Spirit tells us who we are. And he can guide us into understanding how it is that we’ve become the people we now are. At 25. At 45. At 70. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Your present is the result of your past. Especially those first 18 years.
And God has a way of healing our pasts by drawing us into truth. Because he is the Truth.
This week, we’re releasing Part Two of an article by Marcus Honeysett on the importance of a church leader’s home life. Click here.