Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Failure

I have read back over my goals for 2012 to remind myself of what I intend to do to make 2012 my healthiest year ever. For the most part, as the quarter pole of 2012 nears, I feel I've done an acceptable job. Except for one thing. There was one item on my "mental health" goal list that I'd forgotten all about it. As I read it, it screamed one word to me: "FAILURE!" (Not "good effort" or "nice try" or "needs improvement". Those words would have painted a too-rosy picture of my actual behavior.)

What have I failed at? Let me quote myself: "To take one day off per week and do things I find refreshing on that day." FAILURE!

So, here we go. "Hello. My name is Dave and I'm a workaholic." I exhibit all the classic signs of an addiction to work. I think about work issues almost all the time. I have a hard time ending my work day, even with my self-imposed "no work after 10 pm" rule. I find myself, all too often, being emotionally detached when talking to family and friends because work issues are on my mind. And I can't take a day off. Check that. I won't take a day off. Even when commanded by God to do so. (I had a hard time typing that...)

God hates laziness. Time is short and the stakes are high. When people are unwilling to routinely make sacrifices and put forth their best efforts to become the kind of people God wants them to be and produce the fruit that God wants them to produce it is unloving, irresponsible and self-centered. This is true, and I can preach it all day long. But as for the proverbial ditch on the other side of the road...

God hates workaholism. People are finite and their energies are limited. When people are unwilling to let go of their work and take time to refresh themselves, when they believe that the secret to success is more dependent on their effort than God's blessing, then they are proud, irresponsible and self-centered. I don't like preaching that message. Too convicting.

I'd rather burn out that rust out. God, however, finds both options unacceptable. He would probably say something like, "How about burning brightly for a long time?" (His questions always have a way of opening our hearts and bringing enlightenment all at the same time.) Taking a day off is one way we honor God with our work. It helps us to stay healthy and productive. It helps keep us from worshipping our work and helps us to keep our priorities right. Workaholics like me need to surrender to these realities and live accordingly. Please pray that I will.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Ups and Downs on the Path to Health

I, along with my staff-mates, have committed to making 2012 our healthiest year ever. This encompasses physical health, mental health and spiritual health. Having been on this path for two and a half months, there is one thing that has really crystalized for me. The path to health in every area of personhood looks exactly alike: it is filled with ups and downs that make it impossible to judge progress by looking at single snapshot in time.

Physical health, mental health or spiritual health – it doesn’t matter; the same dynamic is present in them all. Progress and setback. On the wagon, off the wagon. Practice disciplines, miss the disciplines. Good days, bad days. If you look at any one day, or week, or cycle, you can woefully misjudge how you are doing. We get too rosy or too gloomy of a picture.

The only way to accurately assess yourself, to discern how you are actually doing, is over a longer period of time. It’s not so much whether I weigh less than last week, or do a better job at controlling my thoughts and emotions that I did yesterday or whether I have more energy for the things of God today than I did two weeks ago. Because of the up and down nature of life, I can end up thinking I’m doing way better, or way worse, that I actually am doing.

It is better to see that I weigh less this month than last month; or that I controlled my thoughts and emotions much better in a certain situation than I did in a similar situation 3 months ago; or that I am more excited about God and His work than I was last year.

Healthy practices, which lead to healthy outcomes, take time to work their magic. We must respect this reality and persevere in doing them. We cannot allow ourselves to become despondent when we hit the inevitable slump. We can’t grow weary and quit because we haven’t seen the progress we desire. We can’t make sweeping judgments based on slices in time.

I am a “work hard today, see results now” kind of guy. I am inherently impatient and I naturally find myself emotional tied to this day, this week, or this event. I am learning to be more long-term oriented when it comes to my health, and not just my leadership. The Scriptures say that righteous practices will produce healthy results “at the appropriate time”. (Galatians 6:9) The appropriate time is, it appears, never right away. It is down the road. And this requires that we persevere in doing the healthy thing. Our bodies, minds and souls will reap the rewards if we do.