Tag Archives: pastor’s wife

Snagging the Pass Through….

Snagging the Pass Through

I was with a pastor’s wife friend of mine the other day and she was describing how she had been going into “pass-through” mode. Of course that phrase is my own terminology that I have coined, but I knew exactly what she was talking about. This post has been one of the most regarded in the years I have had this blog. I thought it appropriate to send it through a second time. Hope you enjoy!

Before I ever experienced jet lag I would hear people talk about it and thought they just meant they were really, really tired. What was the big deal? (insert eye roll here) Then I went to Europe for the first time and came home tired. I didn’t know how tired until I face planted in my lunch the next day. I dragged myself to the car, having to concentrate lifting my foot as high as the curb. I kept my eyes open long enough to crawl in my car, and I slept for 2 hours in a crowded parking lot. I realized jet lag was more than tired. This was beyond my control!

Burnout is much the same. I think of burnout this way. There’s a dark recess of your mind that is the end of you. The bottom of the rope, the last step before the cliff, that moment just before you fall asleep…the end. That place is a different spot for different people. Some people have a deeper reserve and can take much more of what life can throw at them. Others have a shorter fuse and reach their spot of depletion sooner. Either way, burnout takes you to a tired that sleep doesn’t fix.

I found that dark recess in my mind I didn’t know existed until now. Burnout. I feel stupid and weak admitting I was there. The lack of admission was part of the reason I got there. Because I feel stupid and weak admitting I have this breaking point and I let my actions and the actions of others break me.

Being in ministry means being about people. Honestly, I like helping people. I don’t say that to make myself seem all humble and servant like. If you know me you know servanthood does not come naturally to me. Being bossy on the other hand does come naturally to me. I like helping people realize stuff. I am addicted to that moment when a girl sitting in front of me has the realization she can walk in total freedom from the past bad choices she has made. Or that moment when my husband and I are working through marriage problems with another couple, and they realize sticking it out is far more rewarding than being a quitter. There’s no drug, or alcoholic beverage that tops the exhilaration of seeing someone turn around and change their behavior for the better. I’m addicted. I admit it. I love seeing people be happy and work out their problems and I LOVE that I get to lead people to God’s Word and watch their lives unfold.

There is this turning point though, when you are in the business of helping people, that 2often times you start taking in information only to pass it back out. You hear a great sermon, a wonderful song, a cool quote, and you think I could use that in a blog post. I need to tell my pastor wife friend about this podcast. I need to share this book with my friend who needs to hear this. I need to Periscope the sermon so this other person can hear it who is at home with a sick child. And before you know it everything you take in is getting passed right through you to other people. Even your morning devotions become note-taking sessions for others. Nothing is sticking, nothing is getting snagged for YOU!

During this season of burnout and comeback my husband Jack and I went to a different church. We wanted to go someplace we could just go in and sit down and go to church. We haven’t done that in something like 14 years. It was an amazing feeling. I had forgotten how much I love God’s Church and His people. Now keep in mind I was reading the book, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand while I was on sabbatical. Guess what the whole sermon was about that morning? You guessed it. Leadership pain.

God definitely had something for me that morning, but instantly I started the pass through. I thought of my friend who needed to hear a certain quote. I thought of all the people I knew who I wanted to hear this sermon. It was an incredible message. But I was in the middle of the pass through thinking of all the people I could minister to from this sermon when God so sweetly showed me…maybe it’s just me who needs the ministry right now. He showed me how it was all right to let these words from Bishop Walker at Mt. Zion resonate with me and only me for that moment. Tears filled my eyes and I allowed myself for the next hour to just sit and soak it all in. I did not want to miss one moment God had for me. I stopped the pass through and I snagged every morsel taking notes as quickly as my thumbs could type.

It truly was a wonderful feeling. So many of us in ministry want to see our church family succeed. We deeply want the best for them, so we get in this state of pass through not retaining any of the wisdom and knowledge we hear from others to teach us, lead us, and help us grow. We eventually become empty; nothing more than a slot machine. Put in a quarter, pull the lever, out comes the advice.

It’s okay to keep the pass-throughs going. But take time to snag some for yourself. Or better yet, snag the whole thing for yourself; let it steep for a while; then continue the pass through. I challenge all my pastor friends, counselor friends, pastor’s wife friends to notice how often you go into pass through mode. The next time you realize it, stop and think about what you’re hearing or reading and how it can apply to YOUR life first, and you will take a step in guarding yourself against burnout.

I also would love to hear from you. Those who have suffered from burnout and recovered. What was your strategy? Comment below and let’s keep this conversation going. As I have seen from my last post on this subject, I am not the only one going through this. Thanks so much for taking time to tell your story!

Top 3 Causes of Burnout…or at least they were my top 3

I have been amazed how much the subject of burnout has resonated with so many pastors, their wives, and people in general. I’m very happy my transparency made others stop and reassess where they were. I have people who have scheduled vacations, sabbaticals, and are releasing some things from their lives. But this is my last post on burnout. I got REALLY transparent in this one. I may revisit this subject again at a later date, but I feel it’s time to move on…Enjoy!

17135984132_f694fe1ab0_zThe Christian/Church world is really no different in many ways than the world outside the church. I know we all want to believe it’s different, but it’s really not. We are just providing a central location for people who are screwed up to come and try to get themselves figured out. The difference that makes the church world really cool in my opinion is you get to do this “figuring” with others who are on the same road, going in the same direction.

I just came off a 3-week sabbatical where I removed myself from everything and everybody. Many people much smarter than myself told me 3 weeks was not long enough and I believed them. So I made the most of every moment being very intentional in my thoughts and actions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with no phone, no social media, no work, and no appointments. I was living in this temporary utopia and I was determined to make the most of it. I realized I needed this adult “time out” to process some things that have happened over the last 8 years since we planted a church.

Before we started the church Jack and I had experienced great success at the church before us, at the same time as building a very prosperous, successful business. I was building SaveOne and every year had been better than the last. I went into this church plant thinking it would be more of the same. Success, growth, new friends, great people, locking arms, and marching forward into this new area of success! Everything golden, everything lovely. Before we planted we talked to some dear friends of ours who had started a church about a year before us. We asked them to tell us what we didn’t know. I will never forget my friend saying these words to me, “You’ll make more enemies than you ever dreamed.”

Fast forward 8 years later and I was in a place of believing we had more people who hated us than loved us. I could have never dreamed of the amount of people we would tick off, sometimes just by our very presence. I could lay out for you story after story of the lies, the betrayal, the rejection, the anger, from people that we considered friends and would stickUntitled design by us through thick or thin. I became very disillusioned through this process to the point of fantasizing about moving to a foreign country, going off the grid, or moving to a remote cabin in Montana, growing all our own food and learning how to sew. You know it’s bad if I was thinking about domesticating.

So here I was, 8 years later. I felt finished. Depleted. Done. I had tried everything I knew to do to fix myself and nothing was working. I had watched my husband over the last year head up the construction of our new church building. It was so stressful on him I literally laid awake at night sometimes, worrying if he was going to die. Being a part of this process did not help me and where I was headed. We were both a mess and needed a break, so I had the idea of a sabbatical. The church was completely understanding and even recognized we looked tired. 🙂

Off we went into the land of burner phones and empty calendars. Even now as I write this I’m sitting in a cabin in the woods (not in Montana) soaking in the sun squeezing every last minute out of my time. And I’m seeing more clearly as to the cause of my distress. Here are the top 3 reasons my life led to burnout.

1. Stuffing. As a pastor’s wife it’s kind of an unwritten rule that we don’t step in and get in the middle of church conflicts unless they involve us. It’s hard though to sit by quietly and be the good little wife when someone is railing on the hubs unjustly. I believed I needed to be quiet, and in most cases I still should! But one thing I failed to do is deal with those unresolved feelings of anger, resentment, and betrayal I felt from these people. Many times we have made friends with people in our church. We have loved on them, visited them in the hospital, helped them out financially, loved their children, and did everything I know a church should do/could do and then the people left and talked badly about my husband, me, or my church family. I stuffed those emotions thinking I was being the good wife. Instead of pulling out how I felt and dealing with the pain before the Lord, I allowed these people into my mind and my heart to fester and become an unresolved wound. The way I have always handled conflict is, we talk and we get it worked out and we love each other again. But when the conflict isn’t with me, but rather with the church that I love, or my husband, who I love even more, I’m unable to do that. I have to find another way to deal with this pain and it is through releasing it to God. The people who leave us are not our enemies even though they may act like it. They may treat us and think of us as an enemy,  but they only become my enemy if I decide they are. The real enemy is the power behind their actions; a very real devil who wants to upset us and keep us in turmoil and distracted from the ministry He has called us to complete. Years of stuffing this type of pain led to many, many layers of hurt that finally toppled into an ugly mess. Now at the same time, not everyone who leaves does so in a negative way. There’s a way to leave a church and remain friends, confidantes, brothers and sisters, and there’s a ways to leave a church that doesn’t cause hurt, division, gossip, and betrayal. When someone you love walks out of your life, do not stuff those feelings down any longer. Pull them out, grieve the loss, forgive them, and move on to the people who God has put before you.

2. Guarding. In my mind I knew I needed to love people. But loving people, letting them into my life, getting into their lives, and working through the muck and mire together was what led to the pain I was feeling. Several of these people left me and I felt myself backing away, guarding my heart, guarding my actions, guarding my words, feeling suspicious of every move, and it led to me being guarded with God. If God called us to start this church, then why was so much pain involved in the process? The process was what I could not back away from. I had to stay engaged and love people regardless of how they love me back. Men and women have been brought into our lives for a season. If someone is standing in front of me who needs my help, I need to give it. I cannot expect their loyalty, their friendship, their commitment or anything else in return. I need to give of myself and allow God to do the rest. If God has brought them before me for this time then He trusts me to help them. He believes there is something I can give that will better their life. So instead of backing away to avoid pain and thinking only of myself, I have to dive into the process and embrace the friendship, and everything that comes along with it. Guarding myself leads to isolation and that is all the devil needs to strike; an isolated heart and mind.

3. People-pleasing. Don’t pass by this paragraph thinking this does not pertain to you. It does. Or it will. I have a tendency to remember the negative. You know that moment when I can have 999 people I just spoke to tell me what a great job I did and 1 say something negative and I go home and obsess about the negative. It’s the same with the church. People say some of the most unbelievable things to pastor’s wives and pastor’s. I mean stuff you just can’t even possibly imagine. I don’t know why the public thinks the wife is the dumping ground. The place to come and complain about the pastor, a problem they perceive with the church, critique her clothes, her weight, her money, her car, her children’s actions, well you get the gist. Remembering these hurtful words led to me altering my behavior, my clothes, my actions to please different people who had said different things. I never saw that as people-pleasing, I started out thinking I was helping the church and being a good pastor’s wife. But in the process somehow I lost myself. I ended up being this person I didn’t like very much because I was just bland, gray, non-adventurous, saintly Sheila. I allowed others to set the rules and I bent over backwards to follow everyone else’s rules for me. I’m recognizing this and I’m trying to work out of it. I’m still discovering the areas in which I have allowed others expectations to rule.

These three areas are what I have pinpointed as my demise a few months ago. I don’t like sounding so negative like being a pastor’s wife is all this and nothing else. The positive moments equal no other. Like when someone has been through a harrowing circumstance and they call for help because they trust you more than anyone else. That is a privilege that still to this day brings tears to my eyes. That moment never grows old. There are people who left a good, secure, church (the right way) and came with us to the unknown to plant a new church, and are still with us today. These people are our lifeline. They hold up our arms, they pray for us, they are trusted friends. I could write a novel on the moments over the last 8 years that I will treasure forever. What I know for sure is there will always be people I have to keep my mouth quiet about…there will always be people the Holy Spirit warns me to guard myself around…and there will be times I need to get over myself and please other people. This is life, and it’s not all bad.

Recognizing these things in my life, and their out of control state, has helped me pinpoint my turnaround spot. While on this 3-week adventure I read 2 books, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand and “When Words Hurt” by Warren Bullock. I would recommend both books, but Sam Chand says, “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain”. Those are incredible words of wisdom. Time after time there have been examples all through God’s Word of people who went through an incredibly hard, painful time that led to an incredible victory. Well, I know Victory is coming! I can’t say I am completely out of burnout. I don’t feel 100% myself again, but I know I’m going to get there. I’m working diligently about being in the moment. That’s just a freebie. One of the things I recognized is that I was constantly thinking about what I needed to do next, where I needed to go next, how much time I had at this stop, determining ahead of time how much time I would give a problem, etc. Right now this moment is pretty cool and I want to bask in it. It’s freezing on this porch where I’m writing, but the cold mixed with the bright sunshine feels too good on my skin to give it up. My dog is sitting at my feet, I smell the fire in the fireplace waiting for me, and as far as I can see in front of me are mountains yet to be hiked.

Sabbatical…YES PLEASE!

1“Almost everything works again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.” Words by Anne Lamott

If you have kept up with my blog at all, you know my husband and I took a sabbatical this year. First. One. Ever. It was wonderful, and I’m here right now to show you why you need to take one too. Sabbaticals are not just for pastors. They’re not just for people who are stressed out. A sabbatical is for YOU reading these words and let me tell you why…

Have you ever completed a “cleanse”? There are liver cleanses, colon cleanses, etc. We know we need these cleanses when stuff starts getting backed up. Don’t make me go into detail, but you know what I mean. It can get really gross, yucky, stinky, and clogged inside. It makes us feel bad and affects other parts of our bodies. Having a dirty inside can cause everything from bad breath, to acne, to hair falling out. One of the greatest cleanses you can ever do for yourself is go on an extended fast. It releases everything inside you. WATCH OUT! It’s the ultimate cleanse! 3

Often times we go on these cleanses, or fasts because of pain. We want the pain to go away, so we take necessary steps to rid us of pain. It’s the same with a sabbatical. When a person is in leadership, whether they are leading a church of thousands, or a corporation of hundreds, or a family of 2, there is pain involved. This pain may be mental, spiritual, or emotional. Sometimes we allow this pain to pile up and we become clogged. If you’re like me you start self-medicating. This “medication” can be watching TV, spending way too much time on social media, eating comfort foods, avoiding people, or (insert your 2“medication” of choice here). Escape becomes the means in which we try to deal with this pain.

If you can relate to anything I’m saying you may just be ripe for a sabbatical. You may be thinking everything will fall apart, I have too much to do, and all the other excuses we come up with. But God needs you to be the best you can possibly be. He needs you to cleanse/detox occasionally, and we do that by shutting ourselves off from the world.

Turn off the TV.

Get rid of the junk food.

Put your phone on airplane mode.

Take yourself to the corner in time out.

What God has called you to do is way too important to complete halfway, less than excellent. When you don’t have much time, (I know a month long sabbatical is unreasonable for some) then you must be intentional. Spend every day with progress. Grab hold of God and don’t let go until He blesses you, each and every day. Feed yourself good food or fast. Don’t lie to yourself and say you will not pay attention to your phone. Back away from your phone and all social media. Airplane mode is your friend. Get a little burner phone and only give that number to a couple of people. Let your mind rest, let your soul rest, let your emotions rest, let your heart rest. You will be amazed what is released when you stop putting junk in.

You may not be able to rid yourself of all pain during a sabbatical, but you will be able to see it from a different perspective. I read a book titled, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand while I was away and it showed me how pain will always be in my life as long as I’m dealing with people. I have to make friends with the pain. Pain is necessary for growth. When God allows me to experience pain He is breaking me out of a plateau, readying me for victory, stretching me to live more, love more, experience more. When I try to avoid this pain, self-medicate this pain, or end the pain then I end growth. God can only take me as far and as high as the pain I can endure.

Let’s look at a sabbatical as a cleanse, or a detox. You’re cleansing your emotions, your spirit, and your mind by removing all the junk and only putting good stuff in for an extended period of time. I promise you won’t regret the results.4

 

Please let me know if you decide to go on sabbatical and I will be praying for you during the time you are away. I cannot encourage people enough to do this for themselves, their families, and the ones they lead. The world will continue to spin without you. At the same time the world will spin better if you are the best you, fully rested and ready for your task at hand.

Snagging the Pass Through- guarding yourself against burnout

Snagging the Pass Through

Before I ever experienced jet lag I would hear people talk about it and thought they just meant they were really, really tired. What was the big deal? (insert eye roll here) Then I went to Europe for the first time and came home tired. I didn’t know how tired until I face planted in my lunch the next day. I dragged myself to the car, having to concentrate lifting my foot as high as the curb. I kept my eyes open long enough to crawl in my car, and I slept for 2 hours in a crowded parking lot. I realized jet lag was more than tired. This was beyond my control!

Burnout is much the same. I think of burnout this way. There’s a dark recess of your mind that is the end of you. The bottom of the rope, the last step before the cliff, that moment just before you fall asleep…the end. That place is a different spot for different people. Some people have a deeper reserve and can take much more of what life can throw at them. Others have a shorter fuse and reach their spot of depletion sooner. Either way, burnout takes you to a tired that sleep doesn’t fix.

I found that dark recess in my mind I didn’t know existed until now. Burnout. I feel stupid and weak admitting I was there. The lack of admission was part of the reason I got there. Because I feel stupid and weak admitting I have this breaking point and I let my actions and the actions of others break me.

Being in ministry means being about people. Honestly, I like helping people. I don’t say that to make myself seem all humble and servant like. If you know me you know servanthood does not come naturally to me. Being bossy on the other hand does come naturally to me. I like helping people realize stuff. I am addicted to that moment when a girl sitting in front of me has the realization she can walk in total freedom from the past bad choices she has made. Or that moment when my husband and I are working through marriage problems with another couple, and they realize sticking it out is far more rewarding than being a quitter. There’s no drug, or alcoholic beverage that tops the exhilaration of seeing someone turn around and change their behavior for the better. I’m addicted. I admit it. I love seeing people be happy and work out their problems and I LOVE that I get to lead people to God’s Word and watch their lives unfold.

There is this turning point though, when you are in the business of helping people, that often times you start taking in information only to pass it back out. You hear a great sermon, a wonderful song, a cool quote, and you think I could use that in a blog post. I need to tell my pastor wife friend about this podcast. I need to share this book with my friend who needs to hear this. I need to Periscope the sermon so this other person can hear it who is at home with a sick child. And before you know it everything you take in is getting passed right through you to other people. Even your morning devotions become note-taking sessions for others. Nothing is sticking, nothing is getting snagged for YOU!

During this season of burnout and comeback my husband Jack and I went to a different church. We wanted to go someplace we could just go in and sit down and go to church. We haven’t done that in something like 14 years. It was an amazing feeling. I had forgotten how much I love God’s Church and His people. Now keep in mind I was reading the book, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand while I was on sabbatical. Guess what the whole sermon was about that morning? You guessed it. Leadership pain.

God definitely had something for me that morning, but instantly I started the pass through. I thought of my friend who needed to hear a certain quote. I thought of all the people I knew who I wanted to hear this sermon. It was an incredible message. But I was in the middle of the pass through thinking of all the people I could minister to from this sermon when God so sweetly showed me…maybe it’s just me who needs the ministry right now. He showed me how it was all right to let these words from Bishop Walker at Mt. Zion resonate with me and only me for that moment. Tears filled my eyes and I allowed myself for the next hour to just sit and soak it all in. I did not want to miss one moment God had for me. I stopped the pass through and I snagged every morsel taking notes as quickly as my thumbs could type.

It truly was a wonderful feeling. So many of us in ministry want to see our church family succeed. We deeply want the best for them, so we get in this state of pass through not retaining any of the wisdom and knowledge we hear from others to teach us, lead us, and help us grow. We eventually become empty; nothing more than a slot machine. Put in a quarter, pull the lever, out comes the advice.

It’s okay to keep the pass-throughs going. But take time to snag some for yourself. Or better yet, snag the whole thing for yourself; let it steep for a while; then continue the pass through. I challenge all my pastor friends, counselor friends, pastor’s wife friends to notice how often you go into pass through mode. The next time you realize it, stop and think about what you’re hearing or reading and how it can apply to YOUR life first, and you will take a step in guarding yourself against burnout.

I also would love to hear from you. Those who have suffered from burnout and recovered. What was your strategy? Comment below and let’s keep this conversation going. As I have seen from my last post on this subject, I am not the only one going through this. Thanks so much for taking time to tell your story!