Man, I can be a jerk to live with when I am stressed out. I realized yesterday that my outlook had been skewed by my schedule and (more importantly) my priorities and that had made me more than a bit difficult to get along with. Don’t get me wrong; I have my reasons for feeling like a mummy (“pressed for time”…thank you, I’ll be here all week!):
- We transition to two worship services in 2 1/2 weeks at church, and we still need about 8 volunteers to make it a success. That seems like a small number, but it’s still a stress.
- I have a ridiculous weekend ahead. I am hosting Dr. Dave Anderson this weekend for Graceline, and he is preaching at church this Sunday. That’s cool! But I have a funeral to officiate and a family to grieve with on Saturday too, which of course is occupying a lot of my mind.
- I have a huge pile of grading on my desk, and 75 research papers coming in on Wednesday. Ahhhhhhhhh!
- I am working on my Easter sermon, my second ever in first-person. That takes WORK. The last one went well and I want this one to also.
- Last but CERTAINLY not least, both Laura and I are not able to run right now. She had surgery to remove more tissue after her melanoma diagnosis, which put her out of action for 4 weeks. Then I hurt my foot and need to take about 10 days off too—no running or kenpo.
The end result: Stress. The outcome: John is a jerk who gets snappish and surly.
As I looked at the reason I get that way, it really boils down to simply being too focused on tasks and not focused on God and people. I look at the “task” of two worship services and realize that we are doing that to help people, not to have something to do. I look at this weekend and thank God that I get to be with that family and get to know Dr. Anderson better. I realize that God has entrusted me with helping 75 students understand the New Testament better, and this is their chance to show me that! My Easter sermon shouldn’t be a chance to be impressive but to help real people see the impact of the resurrection of Jesus on their lives. And certainly, I realized that being unable to work out has given Laura and me some time to sleep in, to goof off, and to rebuild some margins in life. Blessings, all.
And the schedule? Well, God isn’t hanging me out to dry, either!
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Yesterday I completely revamped my prayer list too. I took every task off of my list and instead changed to praying for people. Monday, for instance, I am now praying for Laura, for my heart, for vision to lead our church, and for those who don’t know Christ in my life. Tuesday is Elizabeth, the men that I am mentoring as well as my mentors, and my staff at church. And so on.
And the change in focus has brought with it much more peace and much more willingness to be kind, to be present and to let small annoyances stay small.
How do you react to stress? Is it schedule, or assignments, or money that makes you anxious? Do you run to God or from Him when stress hits? And when you can’t run to your normal stress relief, how do you cope?