By Dan Crain.
This is the latest blog in a series on; Loving Freely
It really was a perfect storm. I was a highly codependent pastor that had just moved right smack dab in the middle of our neighborhood. I was ready to be the hero of every young man in the community.
I lasted a year and burned out.
A good friend of mine that saw my codependent tendency manifesting itself in different ways said to me one day, “You have to turn that pastor mode off.” He was right, but I couldn’t. Because of unresolved issues in my family of origin I was never good enough and so I always felt like I needed to be helping someone and attempting to be their hero. I felt like I had an obligation to say yes to everyone and try and fix everyone’s issues. I literally couldn’t turn off this pastor radar.
Readers Digest, which did research on leaders that are in ministry said this; “A lot of us have trouble saying no to other people’s needs. As a result, we work too hard, rarely take vacations or anytime off, and can burn out really fast. Several health studies have found that we suffer from higher rates of obesity, hyper-tension, and arthritis than the average population does.”
I was serving out of my family of origin operating like a sponge trying to soak up love from anyone around me. I was also living someone else’s life that wasn’t my own. Pete Scazzero says it like this, “We unconsciously live someone else’s life, or at least someone else’s expectations for us. This does violence to ourselves, our relationship with God, and ultimately to others.” (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)
I had a choice four years ago. Either I was going to face the deep pain that was down in my soul or I was going to burn out. Either Urban Ministry was going to burn me out or God was going to use it to beat the codependent out of me. Thankfully, the kindness of God led me to repentance. (Romans 1)
I have come to realize that God actually has me in the work of reconciliation to save my own soul. Through this work of reconciliation Christ has forced me to face what is deep down in my soul in order to become more like Christ and the true self he’s placed in me.
I was living with a core lie that if I am not needed then I am not valuable. Helping others, particularly my friends and neighbors on the margins, covered up the fact that I was a performer and that I constantly needed validation. Ministry gave me this. Upon digging deeper into my own soul, the Spirit revealed to me that there is an inherent need within myself to be affirmed, be in control, always feeling the need to be safe and secure.
Christ used my burn out experience to make me realize that because of my codependency I had a lot of attachments to ministry. It began the process of Christ bringing me back to my favorite passage of scripture in Philippians 3; “I consider all things for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” I was not considering all things loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. Scazzero also says, “It has rightly been said that those who are the most detached on the journey are best able to taste the purest joy in the beauty of created things.” (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)
We will burn out if we are constantly trying to change the world around us without seeking to be changed in the work. My false self, as Paul describes in Colossians 3, needs people and things to change so that it feels better about itself. Compassion fatigue and burnout happens in ministry because we become so consumed with changing others or a particular thing and lose sight of God changing us. We forget that God is using what He’s called us into to form and shape us to be more like him.
Over the last few years Christ has been able to build up what Howard Thurman calls an; “Island of Peace within your soul.” I am finding that in the midst of intense moments, through this Island of Peace, I can sense the peace of Christ in and around me and respond to needs accordingly. I am finding that in this Island of Peace that I don’t need anything from others, because I am finding it in Christ.
Dr. Anthony Gordon of Desire Street Ministries says it like this, “As servant leaders we have to shift the validation scope whereby the vertical validation is central and the horizontal validation is secondary.”
God created us for glory to love freely with no strings attached. He does the work in us before he does the work through us. We are able to love freely because God’s love just pours out through us when we acknowledge that God delights in us.
I was living with a core lie that if I am not needed then I am not valuable. Helping others, particularly my friends and neighbors on the margins, covered up the fact that I was a performer and that I constantly needed validation. Helping others gave me that validation.
I feel deeply passionate about the work that Christ has called us to, but more than anything I am becoming more and more passionate about the person who called us to this work and through doing this I have allowed the work of reconciliation to work in me and change me. God uses the work around us to do his sanctifying work in us. Christ is in the world reconciling all things, including the divided lives in our hearts. It’s His work in us that that manifests in the work in the world.
God desires that His kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven, and this means His kingdom come in the deep interior parts of our being and from this place is where reconciliation and change happens.