Recently I came across a set of statistics through the blog Per Crucem ad Lucem (www.cruciality.wordpess.com) which had me perhaps startled, but less surprised. In an entry for August 24, 2010, there was noted that from a sample of ministers in the Orange County area:
Half of those surveyed would consider leaving ministry for another position in the secular arena.
Over half have battled depression at one point in their lives.
A vast majority considered themselves over worked and under appreciated.
In many ways, it seems quite probable that these concerns would arise. After all, ministry is not a task that is easily qualified, quantified or assessed. We are asked to put the Gospel before all things, and Jesus makes this clear that this will have us encountering opposition (Luke 14:25-27). Yet in this opposition, we are also called to love one another as we have been loved by God. How do we maintain such love when confronted with so much concern, worry, anxiety and fear? How do we lessen the burden when others (and ourselves!) are more than willing to place all of their responsibilities on to our shoulders?
The Orange Co. survey pointed out an important practice which can help keep us in our place: regular prayer and devotional time. Almost all of the ministers who were doing most poorly did not keep this or consider it significant. Who are we as spiritual leaders if we do not take time to cultivate our own self? It would be alarming to come across a nutritionist with a love for fast food... and equally so for clergy who have no regard for their own self processes and relationship to the Divine.
Occasionally we will call ourselves selfish (certainly others will!) for looking out for our own lives. However, it is absolutely necessary. Christ took time to pray. Christ wandered off from the crowds. Christ took what belonged to him as his own responsibility and purpose, and allowed others the freedom to come and follow (or not) as they pleased. He was misunderstood for this at best, and well, we know what happened. Receiving the approval of other people just isn't a primary concern in the Kingdom. Loving them is, but not above our conviction to follow Christ.
With all of this, we must be realistic and not expect a parade or applause when we seek to feed ourselves spiritually or seek awareness. We are imperfect people living among other imperfect persons. God thankfully exceeds us in every way- therefore no time is wasted in developing further that relationship. In fact, it may very well be what saves us.