When you see it as a gift

On Friday, as a youth minister, I did very little. There were any number of projects I could have attempted to work on, but my largest accomplishment was driving out to Pattonville to begin judging a high school debate tournament.

I converted no heathen. I intervened in no life-threatening situation. I made no telephone calls. Why? Because I was tired.

"If God made me gung-ho, He also made me tired-- and not just because I needed more sleep. My soul was on empty; I was running on fumes, and the ministry entrusted to my care was too. The depressing truth was youth were not the only ones who needed more substantial faith; so did I. The college students I met for lunch were not the only ones in spiritual jeopardy; so was I. What a humiliating revelation. Here I was supposed to be teaching them to pray, immersing them in Scripture, involving them with the poor-- and when was the last time I did any of that for the sake of my soul and not for the sake of my job?" --Kenda Creasy-Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life pg. 42; "Fatigue as a Spiritual Gift."

Rather than doing inauthentic ministry on Friday, taxing my tank of spiritual energy, I spent the time reading and dreaming, asking through the text of the books I paged through and my imaginings, "What does God want to teach me?" It was one of the healthiest days I can remember, and guilt over the lack of accomplishment did not stick to me. Today, Sunday, my energy was back up and I went into the service and Sunday School classes refreshed.

One of the hardest things for me to do is to sit still. My day off each week is filled with busy work that has piled up while I've been in the office the other days of the week. When I have a free Saturday, if I spend the day on the couch arguing with the television remote, I feel crushing guilt all night while I toss and turn trying to let myself sleep.

Because true rest is such a vivid experience for me when it actually happens, I am so thankful to ministers like those who wrote "The Godbearing Life" for their change in perspective on fatigue. When I read the Creation story, for example, I read the amazing work God did each day and nearly ignore the seventh day of rest. I never have seen fatigue and the rest that should follow it as a gift, but instead as a sign of weakness, the classic American approach.

I think we would be better off as a people if we had a tradition of siesta, like they do in Spain. In the afternoon when the sun turns hostile, business shuts down and people go to rest. Work is for the early morning when it's comfortable, and the night is for celebrating.

Most days, I enjoy having any problem other than fatigue. Every other situation I face will permit itself to be wrestled with. I can apply my logic and my imagination to any problem in my program, and a solution happens. But the only way, I am learning slowly, to defeat fatigue is to surrender to it.

How ironic is this? Why should I give fatigue what it wants? And then I win?

Step one for me; admit when I am tired, and allow myself to make the decision to tank up my body, mind or spirit, rather than push through on pretend energy.

It's a hard quest. The ability to see fatigue as a gift from God is a profound change that will make it much more possible.

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