I think most people have the vision, flawed as it may be, that those involved in the ministry are...like Jesus. They have a peace that passes understanding, a smile on their face, and an unending supply of strength and encouragement for others. To many, working in the ministry would be the equivalent of having a job at Disneyland. It should be the happiest place on earth.
Now, before you think I am about to bash the ministry, I am not. I am blessed to be part of an incredible church staff who ministers to an awesome body of believers. I love using my gifts and talents to serve those on the staff and in our church body. I love what I do, but I never realized how exhausting it could be to do something that you love.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Jesus often retreated to solitary places after times of great ministry. If the Son of God took time to rest, I guess I should expect that we would need that time as well, probably more so in that we are not the Son of God. But it still surprises me every time I come to this place.
I think the rub comes in that ministry is so relational. Most of the things on our to-do lists as ministry staff have little to do with things. They represent people - people we are called to serve. And the more we serve these people, the deeper our relationship with them becomes. They have found a place in our heart.
Maybe once you have been involved in ministry for awhile, you learn to set boundaries emotionally, but I haven't got there yet. I have said before that I am kind of an all-or-nothing kind of girl, and I put my heart into everything I do. When things go well, that is a good thing. It makes for joyous celebration and encouraging times in ministry. But in the same moment, a discouraging word can cloud even the best of times because I have done my best and it wasn't good enough. I am guessing I am not alone.
I look at the emotional ups and downs that I face as a ministry assistant, and I can't imagine the stress that our pastoral staff and directors face on a daily basis. They are the ones who are at the bedsides and in the counseling rooms. They are the ones walking in the trenches with those who are struggling and talking with those who need Christ as their savior. They are the ones on the front lines. They serve day in and day out all the while balancing their own families, and personal struggles and spiritual lives.
Being part of a ministry staff is a 24/7 calling - and it is stressful. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of the goal, but every so often God opens the window of heaven for a brief moment, and we are reminded of why we do what we do. We see God at work. And that makes all the difference.