Overwhelmed and Overloaded

Overwhelmed and Overloaded

We fear doing too little when we should do more.  Then atone by doing too much, when perhaps we should do less.
-Robert Trout

When I (Michael) had just begun my career as a pastor, I was twenty-seven years of age.  I was assigned to serve three churches in rural north-central Pennsylvania.  We had two small sons at the time and another one on his way.  I probably worked 60-70 hours every week trying to at least get one day off a week, but that didn’t always happen.  Because of the make-up of the community in its rural setting several hours from our families and old friends and having small children in diapers it was difficult to have a social life outside the church.  I spent all of my time working, fearing that I wasn’t doing enough.  There were always needs to be met–someone was always in the hospital, someone was always in crisis, someone was always dying.  There was another meeting to attend, another service or event to plan, another visit to make.  Many times it was very lonely and I was tired.  

One September at a monthly meeting of the church council, I lost my cool.  *You have to understand, this is VERY much out of my character.  So much so, that I stunned even myself.   But a situation had been building over the summer and I had no outlet to that point to face it.  And finally it was just too much.  So one night, I exploded at the council, pouring out all of my fear, frustration, fatigue, and exposed many raw feelings that even I didn’t realize I was holding on to.  

I still look back at that night and cringe because it was so out of character for me to do that.  I’ve never done it publicly since.  But in spite of the discomfort of exposing painful feelings and emotions, that night was a turning point for me–in my life–and in my career.  For that night I understood very starkly that I was overwhelmed and overloaded.  I knew that something profound needed to change.  And so it did.  I knew that for my health, my family’s health, the health of the church, and the health of my career I needed not to work so hard, to take everything so seriously, or to hold so much in.  I needed to find balance in my life.  Over the years I have grown to understand even more, the importance of balancing work and play, of spending vital time with my family and closest friends, of nurturing myself and knowing when I need to step back.  I haven’t always gotten it perfectly right, but I have certainly tried to not get to a place where I needed to explode because my frustrations were just too high.   

One of the goals I now have as Tom and I work together is to foster a balance and to model that balance with one another and for the people we talk to.  We always make certain that we make time for fun and that we laugh, that we also do things that are life-giving for us outside of work—hiking, fly-fishing, biking, going to the gym, seeing movies, going out to eat, spending quality time with our families–creating a balance to minimize the frustrations, the fatigue, and the feelings of being overwhelmed and overburdened. 
We know of so many people who work jobs that demand so much of their time.  We know of so many people whose lives are unbalanced.  We know of so many people who are overwhelmed and overburdened and their lives desperately lack laughter, fun, joy, stability, and peace.   It is not the way we are meant to live.  It is not the way we were meant to love.  It is not the way we are meant to be.  

So today we remind ourselves, and we remind you too – create a balance, find a release, remember what brings you joy.  Don’t wait until you explode.  Don’t wait until it is all too much and you feel as if your life is out of control.  We need to unlearn the bad habits that cause us to get out of control and to be overwhelmed and overburdened—and we need to re-learn the practice of emptiness, stepping away, release, rest, and learning to restore ourselves to peace again. 


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