In the summer of 2009, after a long four year push in ministry, I said to Naomi (my wife) that I was going to go lay down and take a nap. Now, I love naps, but on this day in 2009 I hadn’t taken a nap in almost 5 years. It was around 2 o’clock in the afternoon when I lied down on my bed. With the windows open, a slight breeze moving across my body and the sound of birds chirping in the back ground, I fell asleep. The next thing I knew I was startled, it was now dark out and I assumed I had slept a few hours. As I arose and walked out to our living room, Naomi proceeded to tell me with concern in her eyes, that I had been asleep since yesterday. It was now the following day/evening. I had been asleep for nearly 30 hours. After years of non-stop toil, endless ministry demands and living without healthy limits, my body simply shut down.
This past week while reading How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton I was drawn in by the illustration of a bucket and a dipper. Four years ago during this dark time of burnout, I was able to realize that I was giving and allowing more to take from me, then I was receiving. Ultimately, after years of imbalance, my bucket was simply empty. Rath and Clifton’s work has given me some new insights from a leadership perspective on how these exchanges within relationships take place. The following five strategies and outcomes are takeaways I have tried to practice throughout this past week.
Strategy One – Prevent Bucket Dipping… One of the areas in which I noticed this past week is that I to often allow bucket dippers to take significant amounts of water out of my bucket. In a desire to be present and care for these individuals I can often find myself in a state of depletion by the end of the day. Throughout this week I tightened my boundaries on the amount being drained and tried to balance the drain with exercise and rest. In the end, I felt healthier and there was much less dipping which occurred.
Strategy Two – Shine a Light on What Is Right… Our college is in the middle of multiple significant acquisitions of other schools. With so much change, employees can have the tendency to see the glaring negatives of the new acquisitions than the present positives. Throughout this past week I made a point to simply point out the positives in each situation. I could sense throughout the week, a fair amount of my co-workers seemed to have a more favorable response to the change.
Strategy Three – Make Best Friends… This has been true for me over the past 8 years. I have had multiple “best” friends in my current role here at the college. With change in the air, it is essential I keep forging new relationships which will provide depth and security.
Strategy Four – Give Unexpectedly… This past week I sent four unexpected letters to students here at the school, simply telling them how significant they have become to me and how excited I am to see what God is doing in and through them. Each responded back to me the same day, conveying how deeply they were blessed.
Strategy Five – Reverse the Golden Rule… I love when people go out of their way to simply be present with me. Not wanting something, asking something, or taking, but rather to be present. Last night, I jumped in the car with Grace and Eli and drove a half hour to surprise my parents. We simply hung out for four hours. It was great!
Key to my previous burnout, sustainability, sabbath, rest and the ability to know “how much, is to much” became a saving wisdom. Rath’s illustration of a bucket and a dipper has helped secure an even deeper understanding through these five strategies I will use for the purpose of maintaining healthiness within my life and ministry.
I would rather be full then drained!