Among my usual curacy activities of sermon and service preparation, visiting, chaplaincy, funerals, meetings, IME coursework and teaching the confirmation class, I've been involved in a particularly intense ongoing pastoral situation for the past six months that has greatly challenged my personal emotional, physical and spiritual resources. As part of my continuing education, I'm currently writing a paper on pastoral ministry and through this a question has come up: what is sustaining me through all of this?
Well, the short answer, in my view, is: the Holy Spirit. I know the Spirit is sustaining me and equipping me because I know I couldn't do this on my own. My faith is as strong as ever. But because of this particularly challenging ongoing situation, I've been finding it very difficult to focus during prayer time. I'm more easily distracted than usual. I find music very helpful for this, especially instrumental music. I'm not as chatty with God in prayer at the moment - I often just need to sit still in God's presence and not say too much apart from the occasional lifting up names of people who are in need.
The bible has always been significant in sustaining me and that's not changed, though I only seem to be able to manage small bites lately. I have less energy and often need a nap to sustain me. I often stay up too late and I'm not sleeping very well. I'm my own worst enemy, though, and I know I need to get more exercise (or at least some exercise) and make better eating choices, which would help all around.
I would like to say that my family also sustains me, but I'm not too sure at the moment! Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don't. That's the reality of family, of course... I couldn't live without them. I am really looking forward to our holiday back home to California in the summer. I haven't met with my Spiritual Director for quite a while. I think I really should set up a meeting with her. My training incumbent deserves a mention here, too, as he helps me to reflect on ministry and offers a listening ear.
In this role I have witnessed the effects of some of the worst things humans can do to others, but also I've witnessed some of the best things of humanity. My heart alternates between swelling with love and joy and throbbing with pain for another. But I remain hopeful. My fundamentally optimistic nature helps. But really what sustains me is my faith - faith in a good God, in a God who does care - faith in a God who is making all things new, even though it is painful. We do need sustenance to persevere. St. Paul teaches us a lot about perseverance and endurance. I think I'll go read him right now.