Get a Life Outside the Church

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her fine book, An Altar in the World, says,
Many years ago now I met with the other clergy in my small town on a monthly basis. We whined a lot, as most clergy do, about how hard our jobs were. We also encouraged one another, pooling our wisdom about how to keep our sense of vocation alive.

I felt most deeply for my Baptist colleague, whose religious tradition compelled him to preach three different sermons every week without falling behind on all the other tasks of keeping a medium-sized church going. If he stayed home until noon to work on his sermons, people complained that he was not available. If he came to the office to work on his sermons, people knocked on his door all morning long. What saved this guy, as far as I could tell, was the clown outfit in his closet. On his day off, he put it on and went wherever he could make people laugh: children's hospitals, nursing homes, charity benefits. Without the makeup, he was a pretty serious fellow, so it made perfect sense that his exercise in freedom required a wild orange wig. One day he was telling us about his Saturday gig when the Presbyterian among us interrupted him.

"I just figured out what I'm missing," he said. "I mean, what the rest of you have that I don't. All of you do something else besides church." He was right. The Methodist was a volunteer fireman. The Catholic taught Italian at a community college. I wrote books. All of us were committed to parish ministry, which was our main vocation. What allowed us to keep answering the call to do it, however, was knowing that there was something else we could do too.
I hope you recognize--and reflect in your life--the wisdom in those words. I honestly believe that having at least some kind of life outside the church is a MAJOR self-care issue. It is a MUST for your mental and spiritual health. In those times when your field of ministry is more struggle than celebration, it can be a literal lifesaver to have a pursuit, an escape, that will remind you that God is still good, you're not useless (at least not totally), and some things in your life still work.

So join the Clown College. Or the community orchestra. Or the gardening club. Or my fan club. It'd be nice to have somebody else attend the meetings.

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