Being a pastor is the most humbling and rewarding call I can imagine. To be invited to share in the deep moments of life — the joys and sorrows, the victories and the defeats — with those I serve is a gift from God for which I am deeply grateful. Each of the five congregations I have served has enriched my life. A little girl at my first church used to enter the doors and yell, “Yay, God!” I feel the same way.
Because I love being a pastor so much, it was quite a shock this summer to hear what former parishioners said about me. Since May, my husband and I have run into people from every church I served in the past. The comments made to me and to my husband all ran along the line of how “good” I looked — that is, I looked peaceful, happy, relaxed, and younger (!). Because it was not just one or two comments but dozens, I began to wonder what all the fuss was about.
I realized that the difference was self-care.
Back in October, I encouraged you to take care of yourself in body, mind, and spirit. This summer I realized that it is not always so easy. So at the risk of repeating myself — please take care of you!
The un-Cared for Person
A well-rested, well-fed, well-exercised body is a happier body. A well-rested, well-fed, well-exercised mind is a happier mind. A well-rested, well-fed, well-exercised spirit is a happier spirit.
Too often I filled my day off with care for children or aging parents, running errands, and housework. Without a regular day to really recharge, I let my body prematurely age. As my children grew older and moved on, I cooked less and ate out more. By not paying attention to my diet, I aged my body. I am not comfortable in gyms or group exercise classes so I always found reasons not go. This also aged me.
All of my life, I have loved reading. When I look back at the last two decades, I find that I began to limit my reading only to those things that tied to my vocation. There is nothing wrong with reading about church growth strategies, Bible commentaries, and preaching journals — but I should not have allowed them to become all that I read. I used to love word games but had not played them in many years. Nothing ages a mind like a lack of stimulation!
Even though I practice (imperfectly) the spiritual disciplines I have recommended to you, I see where I limited myself here as well.
Formal spiritual practices are not the only practices necessary for health. The world is the Lord’s and all that is in it. Everything in creation — human, animal, vegetable, and mineral — can bring about a soul-expanding moment. Limiting our encounters with God to particular activities, times, and places stunts the spirit.
The Cared-for Person
A former parishioner whom I have not seen in eight years exclaimed, “You’re aging backwards! You look better now than when you were with us.” A few folks even asked, “Were we that hard on you?” I can honestly say it was not the congregations that aged me. I aged me. In all the ways listed above — I did it to myself.
Last summer, I changed appointments (this is what Methodists call being assigned to a church) and I moved into a new community. The pace of life is different — not easier, not harder, just different. I live in a more densely populated location and serve two wonderful congregations that different theologically, politically, and geographically. These changes caused me to step back and consider how I was living so that I could be all that God intended.
Once I took a nap on my day off — I was hooked. Far from being a waste of time, naps are a God-given gift for refreshment. I found a group of people interested in healthy eating and share tips and recipes (and give each other permission to occasionally eat out or have dessert). I discovered that walking my dogs, weeding my gardens, and caring for the wild birds are exercises that I love.
- Who needs a treadmill when three fluffy rescues would love to go exploring?
- Who needs to buy cucumbers when they are growing in the backyard?
- Who needs overhead laterals when there are American goldfinches, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers to feed?
I rediscovered my love of reading — and fed my spirit with a leather bound copy of a favorite book.
It took time and exploring to discover what truly fed me.
Look at your life — your physical, mental, and spiritual life. As much as you love what you do personally and professionally, are you fully happy, peaceful, relaxed, and young at heart? Take time for yourself, shake off the expectations of others, and explore until you find out how to best care for the complete you.
About Carol Pazdersky
Carol Pazdersky is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. She serves the faith communities of St. John’s UMC in Lutherville, MD, and Idlewylde UMC as lead pastor. As the member of the District Committee on Ministry, Carol has mentored other women as they answer their call to ministry. On a daily basis, Carol ministers with women who are seeking to balance their personal, professional, and spiritual lives. She is a wife, mother of three young adults, friend, and animal lover and on the same journey to find balance.