A Day in the Life of a Pastor – My Definition of Stress

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I was having a “Messy Ministry Moment.”  That is when you remember (again) that people are the joy and challenge of ministry – and both are usually “messy.”  I was in that mind frame and was sharing “my pain” with my parents one day.  Have you ever had those moments where you just wanted to “get it all out.”  After listening for a while, my very wise father, asks, “Aren’t you the biggest challenge of all?”  Immediately, I answered, “You bet I am.”

Flashback to a staff meeting I had with our Ministry Assistants a number of years ago.  We were talking about “stress” in the workplace and I asked each to share what their definition of stress was.  I thought it was going well – good answers, discussion about how to deal with it, how to be proactive.  As I began to dismiss the group, Carol asks, “Pastor Chris, what is your definition of stress?”  Without hesitation and no previous thought beforehand to my own definition, I blurted out these words that have stared me in the eye since then…

“My definition of stress is when people or situations do not meet my expectations.”

I have faced this statement so many times since that day.  I am a naturally driven, task oriented, logic minded person.  One of the downsides of being a “maximizer” is that 99% is not good enough in my mind.  I am always evaluating and tweeking people and situations to get the very best out of them.  According to my own definition of stress – I am constantly in a state of stress!  We all do dumb things and situations will usually have some element that needs improvement.  So, “yes dad,” I am my worst offender in these situations because I am disappointed in these circumstances.  How do I overcome these expectations – here are three things that work for me.

Don’t take personal offense.  I was in a meeting once where one of the participants got frustrated and left the meeting upset.  In leaving, they said, “I am personally offended that…”  It really impacted me that day.  I realized that there is very little that I need to take a “personal offense to and leave a situation.”  It is my version of “putting yourself on the shelf” that I discussed in an earlier blogpost.  Not many people are thinking of me when they do something and situations are not “tailored” so I could experience the biggest amount of pain.  The world doesn’t revolve around me so I shouldn’t  react like they do.  And for those who are reading this thinking about all the issues that could offend me as a pastor and a christian, here is a thought.  At the end of the day, God is trying to reach those people with His love too – if they are valuable enough for Christ to die on a cross for them, I will continue to build a bridge as best I can.

Find a positive.  This is a skill we can all improve on each day.  (I am getting good at this.)   Every situation has a positive and if we can capture that “win,” it will diffuse the emotion of defeat.  No one wants to destroy you and failure is not final.  We have all seen the quotes by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, etc. who talk about their “failures” becoming their stepping stones for their victories.  By taking this step, you will begin to turn the stress off and start building forward to a new outcome.

I am out of control.  This is my newest “tool” in my tool belt.  In the last two years, I am learning what it means to “live out of control.”  I will go into  depth in a future post but let me explain the bottom line.  In the end, God is soverighn and I want to follow his purposes.  By recognizing that He has ultimate authority to do what He wants with people and situations, I am taking the burden of the ultimate results off my shoulders and putting them squarely on His.  This gives me peace to know that I don’t have to be perfect…and nor do people and the situations in my life.  Truly, one of the most powerful lesssons in my life…more to come on that in the future.

Are you stressed?  Just writing this has reminded how we can deal with it.  I hope you are because living IN peace is much better than living OUT of peace…I hope you find it for yourself!

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