Thursday, October 22, 2009

Swimming Out of the Whirlpool

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed this week. The specific reasons don’t matter much – they won’t be resolved anytime soon; and even if they were, new stresses would take their place.

A lot of this stress comes from my job. But working as an ordained person doesn’t necessarily mean I’m under any more stress than anybody else in this culture. The stresses are different, but their effects are not.

When I feel this way, my reaction is to look for ways to pull back emotionally from the sources of the stress. That’s not a bad idea, particularly if it helps me identify ways I’m using time or energy unproductively.

But I’ve also learned, finally, that feeling overwhelmed is a symptom of spiritual illness: too much reliance on oneself to cope with pressures and meet expectations. At times like this, I find myself asking God questions like, “Is this really how you want our lives to look?” or “Is this really how you intend the Kingdom to feel?” And I’m both blessed and stopped short by the answer: “No.”

I believe God does not intend us to work ourselves to the bone. I believe God does not intend for discipleship to feel like a burden. And when I stray into that territory, it’s a sign that I’ve forgotten where solutions to my problems really lie. I cannot rescue myself from the whirlpool du jour. I can only rise out of what brings me down “through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) – “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

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