The last several months for me have been crazy. Conferences, winter camps, family trips, sick kids, launching a new program (LHGH), mission trip fundraising and planning, all on top of the ‘regular’ stuff that goes with being a youth worker. I can not even imagine what I would feel like if I was not full time, and still have all of these things going on. If you are part time or volunteer, I tip my hat to you, because I know you deal with all of these same things.
Through these months though, I have realized that the busier I get, the less time I take for myself. We have all heard and felt the expectations of a youth worker; ‘it is about service’, ‘sacrifice for the sake of the ministry’, ‘do more so God can do more’. In fact, we often times use the phrase ‘I’m really busy’ as a badge of honor. At least for me, what that really means is I have been doing a lot for everyone else, and personally I am tired, overwhelmed, spiritually drained, and see no end to this craziness. With this mentality, no wonder most people get out of youth ministry because of burn out.
But here is my dilemma, blame it on a servant’s heart or just me being weird, but I feel guilty and selfish if I slow down. This isn’t just regarding the church and ministry, but also with my family. Am I alone in this? I understand the two greatest commandments; God first, others second. (Matthew 22:37-40) But, I know in the midst of my busyness, God does not always hold that first spot. Just think about what is the first thing to get pushed off the schedule; prayer and Bible reading. And the truth is I am supposed to love others as I love MYSELF. If I deny myself all the time in the name of service, then eventually I don’t love myself at all; which in turn makes that commandment impossible to fulfill.
As I have worked through all of these feelings these past months, a phrase keeps coming into my mind, be selfish. It seems strange that God would be telling me to be selfish, but I think that is exactly what He has been telling me. If I sit down to read and pray instead of playing with my boys, I feel selfish. If I go into the office an hour late because I was at an event late the night before, I feel selfish. If I watch a movie and take a nap on my day off instead of catching up on work, I feel selfish. If I go out golfing or on the boat without taking a student with me, I feel selfish. And God is saying to me, THEN BE SELFISH! I understand being selfish can go to an extreme, which is not healthy, but an equally dangerous extreme is selflessness. God knows better than anyone what a balanced and healthy life looks like for me, and I need to trust His wisdom. I know during these past months, selfless has become an extreme for me. God is telling me to pull back a bit to be healthy. If I am not leading a balanced healthy life, I cannot be the Husband, the Dad, the youth worker, or the Christian He wants me to be.
What extreme are you living in? What steps do you need to take in your life to bring balance? I challenge you to ask God, I know he will tell you. Then the hard thing is to trust what he reveals to you and then live it out. I am trying to be a little more selfish, what do you need to try?
The other day I was reading through the gospel of Luke and noticed a verse that seemed kind of odd. The content of the verse is not odd, but how it is placed between two different miracle stories is, at least at first glance.
Luke 5:16 (NIV) 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Jesus heals a man of leprosy, then moves on to the crowded house where the man is lowered through the roof and eventually healed. This one simple sentence randomly sits between these two stories, seemingly having nothing to do with either one. However, in verse 17, right before the man is lowered through the roof Luke makes this statement: “the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.”
There are two powerful lessons that I need to be constantly reminded of from these two simple statements by Luke.
1. It is all about God’s power.
If I am doing anything out of my own power, it won’t be as good or effective as it would be with God’s power. Even Jesus could not heal someone without God’s presence. I can’t accomplish anything in ministry without God’s presence either. Sure I can entertain teenagers on my own, but that is not what God has called me to do as a youth worker. In order for teenagers, or anyone for that matter, to be saved or grow as a Christian it has to be God’s power working in and through them. The truth is I cannot save anyone, only God can do that. My job is to present them with the truth, help them anyway I can to tap into God’s power, and then get out of the way.
2. The way to get God’s presence and the power that comes with it is through prayer and solitude.
The more I study the life of Jesus, the more I see how often Jesus went off by himself and prayed. The more popular he became throughout his ministry the more he did it. Typically the more successful I am with stuff the less I do it. Obviously this is not a good trend on my part, and also why it is easy to start relying on myself instead of God for success. If I neglect my own faith and spiritual health because of the busyness of ministry I am not being an example worthy of following, and I never want to be in that place.
These are two truths that I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. How about you? How are you doing at living these out?