depression

Gathered Together

turned on macbook

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So, yesterday I was grieved by our decision to keep the church’s doors closed for almost another month.

Today… I was not better. I woke feeling very down. I drove to church to memorize the sermon and record this week’s digital worship. And when I got to church… I couldn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. There was only the desire to weep.

I stalled. I did some other things. Eventually I got to revise the sermon and then memorize it. I felt a little better. Being able to speak about Jesus and his forgiveness and love helps. But… I was speaking to a camera, not to my people.

But by the late afternoon, I was again in a funk. Just… done. My wife kicked me out of the house to just drive for a while, which usually helps at least a little. And it did. A little. (more…)

Extroversionally Flabby

white and tan english bulldog lying on black rug

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A tree sundered in a recent windstorm. Cracked right down the middle, right next to the church building. Could cause a lot of damage if it fell the wrong direction. This morning, we had a workday of sorts, with my family and two other families coming together to take it down, chop it up, and take care of all the various pieces.

We observed distance rules, but we all chatted as we worked. Let me tell you, it was glorious. My kids worked hard. It’s good to see them serve like that! And to have adult conversation in person with someone besides my wife? Look, I love my wife so much, but it’s good to talk to other people, too! It wasn’t ministry-heavy at all; just a chance to chat with friends.

We labored for about four hours, hauling branches. It was hard work, but well worth it. I knew I’d be wiped out when I got home. And what a surprise: I was tired! After lunch and a shower, I took a nap.

I wasn’t expecting the social whiplash, though. (more…)

A Lump

person sitting outdoors

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I don’t think we’re there yet,” I told the council, “But I need you to keep an eye on this. I’ve been sick so much lately. I haven’t been able to serve as your pastor the way I should. I don’t think it’s unfaithfulness. At least, I hope not! If you think I’ve been unfaithful, please tell me!”

I took as deep a sigh as my lungs could handle. I looked over the men that were sitting around the table.

These were good men. These were men that loved Jesus and loved their congregation.

I continued, “But I’ve been sick so much. In 2019, for three months I couldn’t drive. I’ve been out for two weeks already in 2020. I don’t want my weakness to mean the congregation isn’t being served. Like I said, I don’t think we’re there yet, but please. Don’t be afraid to talk to me if you think it’s getting that far.”

The men looked at each other.

And they laughed. (more…)

Bracing

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench

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So. There’s an awful lot of people going around these days, aren’t there? Like, I just spent two weeks with allthepeople, and I’m pretty much done with them. I mean, I love people, and every single minute I was with people was worth it. No question. Standing beside hospital beds and encouraging the despairing is worth it. But let’s just say my introvert batteries are running more than a little low.

Tomorrow’s Sunday, but typically the joy of worship carries me through. It’s a chance to praise Jesus and help others grow closer to him, and that usually sustains me, at least until I get home Sunday afternoon. And then, well nap time!

But then.

This week, my church body is having a huge conference. I’m going to spend four days with allthepeople. It’ll be joyous. I’m looking forward to it, honestly. I’m going to learn a lot, see old friends, and generally have a great time.

But I’m also going in with low batteries. (more…)

Growth Happens

man sitting on black leather padded chair

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Today my church president and I argued. We each argued with a lot of passion. We did not come to agreement.

…and I’m ok.

This is a change.

A few years ago I was in a very different situation, and it would have left me not just physically shaking, but running the situation over and over. And over. To the point of physical illness. I well could have spiraled into a depressive episode. I’d be vilifying him in my mind. I would not be able to let it go.

Today was very different. When we parted ways, we were laughing. We shook hands. We hadn’t come to agreement, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to tear us or the church apart.

What happened? (more…)

The Dangers of Peopling

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So maybe I’m a little isolationist. So maybe I like it if I have a week where all I have to do is work my butt off in the office. So maybe I don’t like answering the phone. So maybe I’d rather bury my head and just have to deal with other people on Sunday morning.

So maybe I’m an introvert.

And maybe I’ve taken advantage of this whole pastor thing for too long.

See, when you’re a pastor in a small congregation,you’re largely in charge of your own schedule. Frankly, as long as Sunday morning goes off without a hitch and you visit people when they’re in the hospital, you could probably get away with doing nothing else.

Now, I’m not lazy. I’ve been working hard.

But… I’ve been spending a lot of time in the office and not nearly enough time out visiting members, making evangelism calls, anything like that. Basically, if it involved peopling, I’ve become really good at avoiding it.

That needs to end. (more…)

Found it!

Sleep

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Aaaaaaah…. there it is.

I’ve found that if I spend too much time with people and not enough time in solitude, it triggers a depressive episode. Last week I spent pretty much every moment of every day with people while I was at camp. I figured a depressive episode was coming.

And then it didn’t.

The day after I got back, I spent a good chunk of time on the phone, an activity that’s not too friendly too me. No problems had, though!

Sunday was a Sunday. I got to see and serve my congregation. All went well. In fact, I even spent more time on the phone.

I was really expecting the depressive episode on Monday. See, my depression usually follows “pastor’s rules for sickness.” I know a lot of pastors that will be sick as dogs on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday they’re fit as can be! And then Monday, the sick strikes again. It’s a combination of mental “I have to do this” and God’s pure grace, keeping his servants able to serve. My depression often follows those “rules.” I can be a wreck on Saturday, fine Sunday, back to a wreck on Monday. (more…)

Review: The Problem of Suffering

The Problem of Suffering: A Father’s Hope
by Gregory P. Schulz

Greg Schulz’s daughter was buried three days before what would have been her first birthday. His son died at fourteen. In The Problem of Suffering Schulz offers his heart. He shows that there are no easy answers, but there is comfort. He shows that in this world, there is real pain. And through it all, he points to Christ.

The foreword (written by Harold Senkbeil) says that this book will change you.

It did. (more…)

I don’t belong here.

Public Speaking

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I don’t belong here.”

I allowed myself to tremble as I stood before all of them. Hundreds of leaders in my church body gathered in convention, and I was tasked to point them to Jesus. The worship that began the convention the day before had a sermon that guided us through Law and Gospel. We had been fed rich food. That morning, a confident man had guided us through the meaning of a particular word, feeding both intellect and faith as he revealed the mysteries of Scripture.

And then here was me.

And as I looked out at that vast sea of leaders, I spoke the truth again: “I don’t belong here.” I couldn’t even pace; the sound system in this rented space didn’t include wireless mics. “Maybe some of you are far more self-assured than I am, but I constantly feel like I don’t belong. I feel like a fake. Like someday someone is going to figure it out, and the district president will show up and pull the plug. ‘We figured you out, Jon. Get out. You don’t belong here.’”

There’s a slight chuckle through the crowd. They think I’m exaggerating.

Of course I’m not. (more…)

Choosing Depression

Depression 5

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It’s a bargain. It’s always a bargain.” The man sighs. “I offer you a choice. Either way I get the better end of the deal, but you think you’ve won. And that’s the way it works.”

I won’t think I’ve won,” I answer.

You will. Briefly, at least.” The man raises an eyebrow. “Here is what I offer: I can take your depression. I’ll deliver it to someone who wants it. He’ll wear it around his heart like a necklace of bone and sorrow. But when I take it, I will take all your memory of your depression. You will never know what you have been strong enough to face. You will never know how much of your own demons you have conquered. You will not recall the darkness of your struggle. And,” he raises a finger, “You will never know that someone loved you enough to carry your burden.”

You love me?”

Someone must, to offer to take your depression from you.” He tilts his head. “Because depression cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be passed on from one person to another, until the end of time and the Dawn comes.” He wrinkles his nose at that word, but smooths it away quickly. “So yes. Someone is offering to take your depression. And all you’ve gotten from it.” (more…)