Life in ministry can tow the line between wonderful and draining on a daily basis. People want you, call you, text you, message you, and find you when they need you–which can be any time of the day. A pastor (and, by extension, usually his wife, who is also a pastor but often without a title) is meant to be the person who is available when no one else is.
Carrying the “pastor” title can lead to feeling like you are “on call” all the time. Whether someone actually needs you or not, it is easy to begin to feel like you always need to be open to the possibility of being needed. It is the complete opposite of the hourly job I worked right out of college. Then, I worked at a publishing house from 7 am–1 pm; when I got in the car to drive home, I turned my “work brain” off, and drove away. I rarely thought about work until I walked back through the office doors the next morning.
Michael and I have discovered that while we are not actually “on call” all the time with ministry (we take one full day off every week), it can feel like it because we care so much. If we’re not at a meeting or prepping for a Sunday morning, we’re still thinking, talking, and dreaming about what our people need and what our city needs. They need God, of course. We just want to be a bridge from the one to the other. And we want to carry that responsibility lightly but seriously.
The seriously part comes in most days of the week and weeks of the year. We disciple men and women, meet for unofficial marriage counseling, prep sermons and leader’s meetings, share the Gospel and serve the community. But the lightly part is just as important, especially for our marriage.
We take even ministry lightly in the sense that we are not the savior of anyone. There is one Man who is, and only He can save, heal, and deliver. So there is freedom for us to be unavailable from time to time, to go off the grid and be MIA. This is why we take quarterly marriage retreats. They are simple, often close to home, and times when we are disconnected from our ministry life. Because before God called us to official ministry, he called us to each other. And we know that our ministry will only go as far as our marriage. But getting away for two days, to re-focus on each other, makes a world of difference when we’re back to the daily routine.
We come back more present to God, one another, and our ministry. Getting away can be a small miracle in and of itself. We’ve just planned it so that we have these small miracles four times a year.
We are better spouses, friends, and ministers because we get away. Do you get away when you need to?