Have you been feeling tired lately? I joke that I’ve been tired for the last 6 and half years, which is the age of my eldest. Parenting will no doubt wear you out, but so will change. Change is exhausting.
When I started my current job in March of 2017, I was coming off of an eight year run at my last employer where I pretty much did the same thing every day. I had beat my mind and body into subjection of the routine that my life demanded to the point where very little thought was needed to go through the day. Like all jobs, there were occasionally stressful situation. But the daily grind had wore down the bumps to the occasional jolt instead of an incessant rattle.
I started my new job at a youthful 36 years of age. I was in the same industry and had a mentor to show me the ropes. Nevertheless, the change was draining. My entire workflow had changed and my mind and my body needed time to adjust. At one point I remember telling my wife that it would be 18 months before I could even tell if I was doing a good job or not. That turned out to be an accurate prediction.
Call it routine or habit, but don’t disregard it. Routine sounds as boring as orthodoxy, but both are indispensable. Imagine doing everything in your day as if it was your first time. First time operating the Ninja coffee maker. First time getting the temperature right in your shower. First time driving. The concentration needed would sap your energy to the point you would flop into bed at 6PM, only to have to think about the best way to arrange the pillows for sleep comfort!
Of course routines are a double-edged sword in that good habits yield good things and bad habits yield bad things. But no one should doubt the necessity and the power of routine.
So when we had to cancel our church gatherings, the move to online Bible studies, Zoom meeting, Youtube, etc… was a definitive break in my routine. Over the last 15 years of pastoring, I am typically absent 1-2 Sundays at most during the year. Sunday is my busiest day and certainly the most draining. My expectation was that without the pressure of sermon preparation and delivery, Sunday would be relaxing. Not so, my friends. The new “skillset” required for pastoring changed overnight.
But even beyond that somewhat predictable energy drain was another phenomenon that proves the power of routine. Sunday (for me) has an emotional flow. In the morning I am focused and purposeful, which culminates in a couple of intense hours of interpersonal activity, leading to a time of meditation (ok, call it a nap if you like!) in the afternoon. And then on Sunday evening I sometimes struggle to fall asleep as my brain is wired from the events of the day. So imagine my surprise when that emotional sequence took place without the accompanying physical events that typically cause them. My mind and body had developed a weekly routine that continued to affect my inner life even when Covid-19 came along. Routine had wired me to “feel” a certain way on Sundays. Talk about power.
Those of us in ministry felt the energy drain that the deviation from routine required. But so did parents who suddenly found themselves homeschooling. So did employees who were having to figure out how to do their jobs from home. So did students who were suddenly told they needed to learn math from, of all people, their parents! Then add on to this the uncertainty of living with a virus rampant in our society with daily doses of new (and often conflicting) data to process, and Presto! You’re exhausted.
So be patient and be kind. We are all tired.
But I have some good news for you: change is possible. New routines can be created and new habits sown. Now might even be a good time to stop and think about the habits that needed to change before Covid hit. The mechanics of this is described in Scripture as putting off the old man and putting on the new man. If you struggle with anxiety, you are to put off the thoughts that lead to worry and put on the thoughts that lead to trust. Your mind needs a new routine.
And there’s more good news: God doesn’t intend for his children to be tired forevermore. There remains a rest for the people of God.
2 thoughts on “Exhausted”
Thank you Nathan. I look forward to opening my inbox and seeing your encouraging, practical and wise commentary. They’re a blessing to me. And btw – it didn’t take 18 mos. for people to see that you were doing quite well in your new job!
Well I had a good mentor!