When my son was in boot camp, we learned that sometimes recruits get stress fractures. The combination of carrying heavy packs, hiking in heavy boots and running, for some, resulted in stress fractures in their legs and hips. If ignored, the recruit could break a bone. If the break was serious enough, it resulted in separation from service. To avoid the damaging breaks, many went into medical rehab until they got better. No recruit liked forced rehabilitation, but it was better than leaving the service completely.
Why do I share this information? Because I lived it. Not in the military, but as a ministry leader’s wife. I didn’t realize I developed emotional “stress fractures” from the work we did together. Then we started a new church. Instead of pacing ourselves, we increased our activity until the inevitable happened—a “broken bone.” I found myself struggling to even get out of bed because of serious depression. My husband ended up taking a sabbatical to help our family recover.
The depression seemed to come out of the blue—or did it? Skipping one more date night, telling our children that putting up church signs together is “family time,” gritting my teeth to serve in the nursery again … had all become the norm. In hindsight, I needed permission to be human.
I needed someone to challenge my thoughts with the following:
We are finite: Frank Peretti has this joke referencing Shirley Maclaine, the size of an ant compared to God, standing on the beach shaking her tiny little fist at Him squeaking out, “I am God. I am God.” I love that visual and would never, ever say such a thing—right? Yet, what do my actions say when I continue to push off a Sabbath rest? When I don’t ever turn the phone off, or determine I always have to have the answers to a congregant’s problem? Isn’t it the same sin as Satan—wanting to be God? I don’t want to accept that I’m human and have limitations. Logically, I know this to be true. I’m not God; therefore, I can’t do everything. Yet deep in my soul I wrestle with this.
Lead by example: Why did God rest on the seventh day? Was He too tired to continue? Did He run out of creative juices? Of course not! God gave us this example; resting on the seventh day, because He wanted to teach us something. He knows, as our loving Father, He had to show us how to live. Likewise, we are being watched by our children, our church, and everyone around us. Are we teaching them it’s OK to care for themselves? Or that the only way to “lead” is to wear oneself out until nothing is left?
Look at the inside: I had to do a serious heart check. Why was I having a hard time saying no? Why didn’t I want to delegate to others or let initiatives end? Was it really my desire to honor the Lord, or was I trying to please men? Was I fearful of anyone thinking I failed? Was I looking for everyone else to validate me? Unfortunately, the answer to all the questions was “yes.” It was a slippery slope for me. What can start out of an honest heart of service can easily become full of pride and self-reliance. Sometimes pointing to another qualified person was what I needed to do to humble myself. Saying “No, thank you” when asked to lead one more thing and living with the stinging gaze of disappointment was the strong medicine I needed to swallow.
Paul pleaded with the Lord to have the thorn removed, instead God replied that His power is “made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 9b.) Could it be that I was supposed to walk with a limp? Not because God didn’t care, but because it helped me always lean on Him. It helped me remember where the real power and the real accountability rested—with Him.
I cringe at these words. I’m challenged because secretly I don’t like being human. I don’t want to wait on the Lord because it should have been done five minutes ago. I fight God when He points out the green pastures and still waters that restore my soul because no one is applauding someone who sits on their keister. I have to continually preach to myself the three points above.
Tim Sanford – my friend, ordained minister, and counselor — says the first domino in the string of service starts with being filled with the love of God. Every worthy work cascades from the first, fully soaking in His love. Trying to create momentum in your own strength is what changes stress fractures to a broken bone or worse yet, broken bones.
Dear friend, where are your stress fractures? When was the last time you allowed yourself to sit still and be loved by God? Is it possible to help each other by embracing our own humanness? Can we encourage one another to pace ourselves so we can run with endurance (Hebrews 12:1)? Let’s together breathe a sigh of relief and say, “It’s ok to be who and what God made me to be — human.”