Are we really all too busy to spend time with God? I was in a situation recently where one group was bashing another group and I innocently asked if they had ever gotten together to pray. You might have thought I suggested they mate with animals. The idea that we “waste” time praying with “those” people was reprehensible. Now, if I suggested they get together to debate and fight, that would have been fine. We have plenty of time for that. In another setting I was speaking to a group of colleagues about personal devotions. To a person, each lamented that they simply didn’t have time; they were too busy for prayer, devotional reading, contemplation and reflection, worship apart from that which they led. This morning, I find myself feeling the same — too much on the plate to take care of my own spiritual, physical or emotional needs. What’s wrong with us?
Preachers sometimes forget that their actions are as important as their words. What we model is every bit as powerful as what we say. Clergy are above the national norm in obesity, stress related illness and disease, fatigue, and a host of other dysfunctions and disabilities. Is this the life of glory we invite others to? I’m not judging anyone beyond myself. I’m working 70 hour weeks, am significantly overweight, and suffer chronic pain. I am a poster child for what NOT to do and be. Yet, I do maintain a morning ritual of prayer, reading, quiet, and writing (some of it ending up here, like today). I hold onto a slim discipline that I find necessary and very valuable. Without it I would be in big trouble. And I guess it is from this perspective that I wonder how spiritual leaders can function without some spiritual nurture and regular practice. Where do they draw the energy from? What well feeds their soul? What replenishes them when they give and give, yet receive nothing themselves? I think it is a sad and dangerous situation. It explains a lot of the burnout and stress. When I did the clergy morale study a few years ago, almost two-thirds of the pastors were on mood-enhancing drugs. Over ninety percent were on some form of medication for stress or blood pressure. Only 21% had a regular prayer/devotional life.
If clergy are too busy for God, they are too busy, period. We cannot preach that we refuse to practice. We cannot judge those too busy for church when we are too busy with church. We need to hold one another accountable to healthy and centered practices (rather than payment of apportionments and increased worship attendance). We need to remember who we are and get our priorities in order. Make room for God. Take time to be holy.