Sabbatical has been a blessing in many ways. I have had time to rest, read, learn, get some work done, and play. The other day, while I was reading a book called “Revolution in Leadership,” I came across this paragraph:
Too often ministers adopt one of two inappropriate ways of dealing with emotional toil. The first approach simply allows the emotions to be drained out of the minister after taking hit after hit emotionally, with no allowance for emotional refueling. The result is emotional exhaustion. The most telling symptom is lack of joy. The second unhealthy approach to handling the emotional turmoil involves the minister intentionally defending his or her emotional life. This is done through insulating oneself emotionally. ( Reggie McNeal. Revolution in Leadership. p.104)
After reading that paragraph, I simply thought “That is me!” I have been on sabbatical for a little over one month and the greatest blessing so far has been the ability to process my emotions. One of the most misunderstood issues a pastor must deal with is his emotions. Often I had to put off dealing with my grief so that I could attend to a grieving family. From there, it’s a hospital visit, or counseling, or a “charged” phone call. McNeal says that the minister hopes his time would come, but it never does because there is always another crisis or occasion that calls for celebration or sympathy.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not bitter, or angry. I understand it goes with the job. The truth is that in the times of emotional exhaustion, that I have experienced, I have also sensed the presence of Jesus comforting me. I would not want to take those times back. My mistake has been trying to deal with my emotional exhaustion on my own. So here’s my conclusion. Responsibility for the health of a pastor is the pastor’s responsibility. However, part of that responsibility is to lean upon Jesus. The second part of my conclusion is where the local church comes in. Give your pastors a break. The fact of the matter is, in the everyday work of ministry there is not much time to process the backlog of emotions. Vacations are good but they do not provide enough time to process emotional exhaustion. A extended sabbatical, at regular intervals, as far as I can tell, is the only way for this to take place.
I want to thank my church for allowing me three months to process. You guys are great -- no, awesome! My initial plan was to work on my dissertation. I still plan on doing that among other things. But, I think I want more than anything, to laugh, cry, maybe yell and cuddle up to Jesus.
Originally posted TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2009