But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
The best antidote to workaholism is a robust pneumatology.
(For those who don’t love big theology words as much as I do, pneumatology is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit)
The easiest, most cynical assumption I bring to a workday is the lie: “It’s all up to me.” Oh sure, I moan and groan under the “terrible burden” life has hoisted upon me, but I have dirty little secret: I actually love it. I am addicted to the idea that the earth would suddenly stop spinning, were I not there to turn the cranks.
In these workaholic moments, the first thing to suffer is my spiritual life. I leave off prayer or Bible study (as clergy, it’s my job to go to church).
This is all a grand delusion, of course. God doesn’t actually need my help to maintain the laws of physics. I have my parts to play in the unfolding cosmic drama: human, Christian, husband, father, son, brother, pastor, and friend… but Savior doesn’t appear anywhere on that list. It’s not my job to keep the planet spinning.
It’s the Spirit’s job, according to Jesus. The Spirit keeps me connected to all that has come before (reminding me of all that Jesus has said), and guides my steps into the future (teaches me everything, as I become able to hear it).
Saving the world is God’s job. I have a part to play, but I can only play that part if I stay in tune with the guiding Spirit. That’s what spiritual practice is all about.
I pause my busy-ness go to church, study the Scriptures, pray, and receive the Sacraments so that my eyes and ears can be open to what God is doing in the world. This is why the best thing I can do for my family, friends, church, and community is nurture my spiritual life by prayer, study, rest, and worship. The work to be done is also necessary, but it is secondary.
I am getting a crash course in this lesson this week as I am out of the office. Due to funding woes, my congregation had to reduce my pastoral terms of call to part-time status. The way we are managing the shift is that I will take one week off each month. This is my first week off. I am forced to stop working and do other things. For a workaholic, this is withdrawal.
Yet, the Spirit is at work: teaching and reminding. I am tending to home and relationships to a much greater degree. The people of the congregation are rising to lead ministry programs and worship in my absence. I imagine they are learning new things about themselves as well. New and sustainable patterns of collaborative ministry are emerging. Could it be that God’s purposes are being accomplished? Could it be that the Spirit is teaching and reminding us that the pastor is not the Savior?
Maybe it’s not all about me, after all?
God, help me to take my part in your story, not your part in mine. Amen.