This month we asked our bloggers to share how they are caring for their bodies and souls in the midst of the demands of ministry. Here are their stories.
“And the intermediate hope – the things that happen in the present time to implement Easter and anticipate the final day – are always surprising because, left to ourselves, we lapse into a kind of collusion with entropy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present … is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.” (N.T. Wright, “Surprised by Hope”)
I recently finished two narratives that speak of the end of the world: a novel by Kevin Brockmeier (“The Brief History of the Dead”) as well as “S-Town” (Brian Reed’s podcast series on an Alabaman named John B. McLemore). Brockmeier’s novel describes the end that despairs John B. so deeply in S-Town. In Brockmeier’s novel, the polar ice caps are melting and Antarctica is harvested by corporations like Coca-Cola for its pure water. War is everywhere and chemical warfare a regular concern.
What strikes me in both “The Brief History of the Dead” and “S-Town” is people’s willingness to live with the deterioration of the planet and with their difficult lives. In “Brief History,” people adjust to less and less safe living conditions. In “S-Town,” young men in McLemore’s hometown make choices that sink them deeper into the pit of rural poverty from which they seem unlikely to escape. The characters, both fictional and real, collude with entropy, assuming there isn’t much we can do about climate change or violence or war or poverty or making a better life for ourselves or our children.
I also collude with entropy. I feel helpless when facing the issues tearing our nation apart. What can I do about climate change and about the fact that people I know refuse to believe it is real? What can I do about poverty or racism or sexism in our country and our world? What can I do about violence?
I read theologians like N.T. Wright because they remind me that the gospel is not ultimately about our destination after death. The gospel is about the Kingdom of God breaking in to our world, even as this world races toward destruction – destruction caused by the very creatures God made in God’s image. To do nothing about this collision course, to choose entropy, is to deny God’s goodness and Christ’s resurrection. To live as resurrection people is to say: “I will speak up, I will stand against the evil we inflict on one another, I will sacrifice my privilege for the sake of others, and I will acknowledge God’s image in the face of every human, even those who anger or baffle me. Things are getting worse, but I partner with God to make things better. And even if things continue to get worse, I will still choose hope by working for good.”
Choosing hope is integral to my self-care, both as a pastor and as a follower of Jesus. I gain more energy and joy when I choose to do something about the pain in our world than when I sit back and cross my arms. Sometimes I use self-care as an excuse to do nothing – I’m “resting,” I’m “setting good boundaries.” But, entropy is not real rest – despair fatigues, just as a body that fails to exercise feels more tired than a body that engages in physical activity. I need meaningful work that benefits people’s lives as much as I need exercise. When my life is a sign of Easter and a foretaste Jesus’ return, I am sustained. May this be true for all of us.
Rachel Young is the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, in Houston, Texas. She is married to Josh, who also serves on staff at Clear Lake Presbyterian as the director of contemporary worship and media.