The plains city of Churchopolis rested peacefully in the heart of the Midwest.
Every Sunday at 6 pm, the residents gather in the numerous local churches for evening worship. Each congregation shares a meal, then moves into their sanctuary to sing, pray, and hear a message from the Bible. Afterward, at 8 pm, each congregation dismissed. Like clockwork, congregants filled various local restaurants for pie and ice cream.
On this particular June evening, as the congregations transitioned from fellowship hall to sanctuary, they heard the city tornado sirens. At the same time, mobile phones sounded a severe weather alert. Congregants opened weather apps and turned on radios and televisions.
Today I have a piece up at Fathom Mag on my experience of pastoral burnout. Here’s the intro:
I knelt on the floor of my study all night, my forehead pressed into the carpet, my fists pressed against my temples. I pulled my hair and wept until I fell asleep, exhausted. Waking in a fetal position, I remembered where I was and what I faced and begged, “Lord, please . . . please . . . please . . . send someone else.”
I pressed my face into the floor and sobbed, no longer able to pray with words. Tears and snot and saliva soaked my beard and the carpet. Alone in the darkness, I didn’t care.
A faint light shone through the blinds but the rising sun did not bring hope. I wiped my face and tasted blood. Weeping face down through the night, the capillaries in my nose had broken and bled into the cream carpet. Time was up. I had to shower. I had to dress. I had to go to church. I had to preach.
In the early morning light, I knelt with rags and carpet cleaner and scrubbed the spot until it changed from crimson to white. The words of the prophet repeated in my head, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
Although that was the last time I bled into the carpet, it was not the last time I met Sunday morning with a breakdown. I didn’t want to preach. I didn’t want to pastor. I didn’t want to live.