Why am I so tired?

I’ve spent the last three months moving at what feels like a break-necking pace.  From the demands of being a bi-vocational pastor to juggling calendars, spending four weekends attending weddings, buying my first home, moving, preaching, leading two weekend retreats, editing articles, dealing with contractors, counseling parishioners, hosting community-wide church events, preaching, teaching, reading, stressing, visioning, attending committee meetings, cleaning out gutters, making business calls, visiting family, sleeping in hotels, hosting business dinners, studying, raking leaves, buying furniture, writing sermons, holding office hours, taking my wife on dates . . . I’m tired.

I tell myself it’s just this season of my life; but honestly, I find this pattern consistent throughout all my adult life.  In short, I overwork myself.

One reason for being tired (despite my better judgment and my awareness of the issue) is my identity gets wrapped up in what I do.  I get self-worth and value from being busy and “handling” it.  I like to be known as someone who can get things done and do them well.  I like my calendar to be full. I like stressing about what’s next.  As long as there is something to work towards, I feel I have yet another opportunity to show the world (i.e. my contemporaries, my naysayers, my followers, my parents, my wife, my friends, and myself) that I’m valuable and needed.

And something tells me I’m not alone in this behavior.

Doing meaningful work is uplifting.  I work hard because I’m proud of what I do and believe it affects God’s kingdom positively, and I’m sure you do too.  Problems arise, however, when our “doing” replaces the importance of our “being.”  It’s not wrong to work hard, we just need to make sure we’re balancing work and play.

Another reason for my exhaustion is my lack of maintaining a consistent Sabbath.

If I’m not careful, I go weeks without taking a break, slowing down, or thinking about my own health.  This is ironic since I spend my life providing opportunities for people to slow down to hear God’s voice, to experience the love of Christ, and to help them open new chapters in their lives while my own soul gets frazzled, drained, and weary.

Three months ago I preached a sermon challenging my church to live out of the overflow of Christ’s love.  This lifestyle ensures we’re always “returning to the well” and strengthening our inner being.  Needless to say, some things are easier said than done.

In that sermon I argued for a renewed understanding of Sabbath – a weekly day of rest, prayer, and recovery.  A day where we watch a movie, write, go for a run, worship the Creator, exercise, cook, do art projects, sit outside, and pray.  I remember saying in the sermon:

How amazing would it be if (in the midst of our craziness) we built in a set time to rest and recover not as a reason to avoid work, but rather as a reason to be more efficient when we work?  You’ve heard it said, “We are human beings, not human doings.”  This makes sense.  Our souls need rest.  We need to sit before the presence of God and wait, listen, and pray.  We need Sabbath.

But three months have gone by and I’m more drained now than ever.  It’s because I think I need to “do” and it takes away from my time when I need to “be.”  In short, I haven’t created the space or taken the time for Sabbath.  I know I need to, but I haven’t done it.  And I’m tired because of it.

Einstein defines insanity as, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  My life must be insane because I refuse to break up the busyness with real Sabbath.  I write about Sabbath.  I preach about Sabbath.  I’m aware of my need for Sabbath.  But I don’t make the necessary changes.

Maybe it’s time I pencil it in to my calendar?  Maybe it’s time I just put down the calendar? Maybe it’s time you should too?

Barrett Owen

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About the Author
Barrett Owen is the associate director of admissions at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology and pastor of National Heights Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga. He blogs weekly at Liminality: Exploring the holy, in-between spaces.

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