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Self-care as part of the vocational call

1.10. 2017 Posted By: Ben Wideman 125 Times read

Ben Wideman is the Campus Pastor for 3rd Way Collective, a ministry of University Mennonite Church at Penn State. He blogs regularly for The Mennonite online. 

A friend recently turned to me and said, “You seem to be mired right now”.

The look on my face probably betrayed that I already inherently knew that to be true. For much of the fall, I felt an internal struggle, though, until that friend pointed it out I probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate what I was feeling.

I realized in that my hesitation to acknowledge my struggle comes from how much I’ve had to celebrate in my life: celebrating 10 years of marriage, the birth of our new baby this fall, reaching the milestone of two years of 3rd Way Collective at Penn State, my middle daughter’s recent birthday, and many affirmations of the work I’ve undertaken in our community.

Yet I’ve struggled with balance in many facets of my life: how to be a good parent and spouse, how to balance my vocation with my family and my own self-care, how to balance my faith with my politics, my various hobbies in my limited free time, and how to find the balance in my work at Penn State between authentic pastoral presence and programmatic planning and events. I worry that instead of fighting a culture of intense busyness, I’m simply adding to it. I feel a strong need to be fixing every issue and concern, and to be continually evaluating the best use of my time.

I frequently counsel students that I meet to spend less time worrying about the future and more time slowing down for self-care and reflection, yet I have a hard time taking my own advice. I cringe at my own response to the question of “How are you doing?”, often with a hurried, “I’m just really busy right now!”

Sometimes I feel like one of those circus performers spinning plates and just praying that none come crashing down.

It is in these moments when I need to return to Jesus’ sending call to his disciples in Luke 10. In that passage I see that participating in Christ’s Kingdom is about simply meeting people where they are to offer a message of peace. Our task is not to solve every crisis, or figure out how to be the perfect master of our daily schedules. In fact we are called to just be present, and to move on (shake the dust from our feet) if things aren’t going as planned.

With this model I’m able to slow down and be a better parent and spouse. I’m able to see self-care as a holistic part of my vocation, and how my politics are empty without genuine presence. I can remind myself that meeting students where they are is far more important than making sure our events run smoothly, and that offering students space to breathe rather than be busy is part of what it means to be an effective pastor and to offer peace in our world.

But I know that I also need support from my family, friends, church and colleagues. Alone I am left spinning my plates. I am at my healthiest when I am surrounded by others, who are helping me walk through the complexities of life.

So I offer these words today with questions in mind: how are you creating balance in your life? How are you moving beyond feeling mired into a space where you are participating in God’s work in the world?   
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