I’m not sure when the warning light came on. I’m thinking that it was right before we left for the summer, but for sure it was on when we returned. The car was driving fine as far as I could tell, so I wasn’t too worried. Eventually I pulled out the owner’s manual to find out what the symbol meant. When this happened to a friend I was riding with this summer, it turned out that their gas-cap wasn’t on tight. Could my problem be that simple?
As innocent as the symbol looked, it turned out to be the “engine malfunction” symbol. This can indicate a whole range of issues. One side of me felt like I was way too busy to be concerned about this. I could just wait and deal with it in the future. The timing couldn’t be much worse to have the car in the shop, even for a day. The car guy in me, however, was really bothered that something was wrong with the car, and I wasn’t dealing with it. I determined that I better get a diagnostic, and find out for sure what was wrong. I didn’t think it would take much time or money to get it fixed.
I wasn’t prepared to be told that my car was terminal unless we took extreme measures. The engine was mis-firing, and there was oil in the pistons. The shop manager told me this would require big money, and substantial time to fix the issue. He went on to describe that the manufacturer had an engine design flaw, but they refused to issue a recall. It made me feel better that I hadn’t done anything wrong, though only a little bit.
This car, my Camaro, is one that I’m emotionally attached to (I don’t normally get emotionally attached to cars). I helped my Uncle Gary pick it out when he bought it new. When he could no longer drive, I bought it from him. I had the honor of officiating at his Memorial Service when he died. I like having this connection with my Uncle Gary, and have named my Camaro “Uncle” in his memory. I was willing to make a big investment in “Uncle” to get it back on the road.
How often, though, do we ignore warning signs in our own lives? One of the subjects that I am passionate about is self-care. I’m very aware how most of the people that I know don’t do a very good job taking care of themselves. They tend to push themselves too hard. It appears to me that it’s an epidemic in our country to not get enough rest. Then there are the subjects of eating right and exercising!
Ten years ago I totally burned myself out. I took a year off as a personal leave of absence. I wasn’t physically, emotionally, or spiritually, strong enough to continue to pastor a church. I doubted if I would ever pastor again. For the first three months I mostly slept. I was exhausted! Twenty years of being a pastor without taking proper care of myself had torn me down. It took a major investment in my life to build me back up to being healthy.
Since then I have pastored two more churches and started my role as Missional Strategist & Superintendent (I still look at my business card to get my title right). Some of the bad habits have returned, though now I fight them. I don’t have this self-care thing mastered, but I’m trying. What about you? Are you investing in your own self-care?
For our clergy of the South District (and the entire Desert Southwest Conference), one positive step that you can make is to take two days off a week to help get enough rest (Yes, this is supported by Bishop Bob). I have been surprised by how many of our conference pastors refuse to do this because they are too busy. As one of your superintendents, I want you to take the time you need to be strong and effective. This advice also goes out to our laity. We need you to be at your best. When we are strong we make a better witness for Christ!
There are many steps that can be taken to do effective self-care. Rest is just one of them. Sometimes we are already doing such a good job of self-care we only need to “tighten the gas cap.” Other times we need a complete over-haul. Recognizing what is needed is half the battle.
As I write this, Uncle is in automotive ICU. Uncle has been torn apart, and is unable to function as a car. This, however, is temporary. New heads have been ordered for Uncle’s engine (I was close to buying a new engine). With the backing of my credit card, Uncle will be re-built!
Your brother on the road of life, Mark