Shepherd’s Care: Beating Burnout (2)

I had planned to comment on depression and bring our look at “the downward spiral” to an end.  But a few days ago, I came across this piece from Philip Yancey, and I believe it has wise counsel in it.  I have adapted the text into a first-person experience….

A pastor in Chicago used the illustration of an old hand-operated pump to describe his burnout.  “Sometimes I feel like that old pump,” he said.  “Everyone who comes along reaches up and pumps vigorously a few times, and each time I feel something drain out of myself.  I feel dry” (Church, Why Bother? p. 96).

The pastor went on to tell that he took his dryness with him on a retreat and shared his feelings with a spiritual director.  The director gave him good advice, “Bill, there’s only one thing to do if your reservoir is dry.  You’ve got to go deeper.”  He realized that for his outward journey to continue, he needed to give higher priority to his inward journey.

There is no greater illusion to be abandoned than the notion that because we are in ministry, somehow our profession will be our protection—that we can sustain ourselves through our service to others.  But the fact is, the only thing that can sustain us is responsible attention to our own needs.  This is not selfishness, it is survival.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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