Recently, my visit to the Emergency room had me answering this question, “Do you have a stressful job?” It was also one of the questions that came up on my other 3 visits as they tried to figure out what has going on with my soaring blood pressure and funky symptoms. I assured the doctor, ahem, doctors, that my job is no more stressful than any other job. A few days after my visits to the ER as the question kept coming back to my mind, I realized that the day I first went in was also a day that had me dealing with some literal life and death issues involving friends, phone calls to police, doctors and others. That single realization was like taking the cork out of a bottle and little by little I’m trying to be honest about the level of stress I live with.
How much stress can a person who only works one day a week possibly be under?
There’s an interesting moment in one of the letter’s in the New Testament where Paul, apostle, church planter, follower of Jesus, is listing all the things he’s suffered as a result of his vocation. He’s not just being whiney. Hopefully I’m not either. The thing is that stress seems to be part of the package and it goes all the way back to the start: a history of 2000 years of stress. Nice.
Here’s what Paul was dealing with: The Corinthian church that he was writing to (contrary to modern perceptions of apostles, authority and the Church) were giving Paul a lot of stick. They questioned what he had already written to them and were even asking, basically, “Who do you think you are?”
So Paul does what a leader should do. Rather than puff up his chest and say things like, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed!” or claim some authority by virtue of “position” or title, he simply goes over a list, a story, of what he’s suffered, to say, “See how I’ve loved you?” And like Tevye’s wife in “Fiddler on the Roof”, he goes over all he’s done for them to prove that his stake in their lives is not for selfish, self-interests but for love. He loves them and his life proves it – which stands in sharp contrast to those who would tell them only what they wanted to hear or things they’ve never heard before only to get a following for themselves regardless of the welfare of the Church.
This whole thing comes up again and again in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and here’s a taste of it from chapter 11, “…24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.[c] 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?”
“…the daily burden of my concern for all the churches…” Right up there with stoning, shipwreck and starvation. We didn’t cover this in Bible College.
So what are the things I find stressful about what I do? I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, working very hard to be honest with myself and not just write things off or stuff them and tell myself I’m just being a whiner. Being honest with myself, at least in this area, has proven to be very, very difficult. I’m realizing that I’ve been neck deep in denial as the bar for ‘normal’ kept moving to accommodate my reality. I also think this has something to do with my present but is just as much about an accumulation of my past. I may not remember every meal I’ve ever had but each one has made me who I am today.
I’m making a list, a reflective compilation of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. I get stressed out just writing them down so I’m pretty sure I’m on to something.
What about you? Do you have stressful job/life? Have you been moving the bar to unhealthy places and calling it the new ‘normal’?