Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word. (Psalm 119:67)
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:71)
While I’ve learned to value boundaries, I still struggle with limits. If I am immersed in an interesting writing project, I will work for hours without getting up to stretch or eat or even get a drink of water. Particularly if I’m on a manic swing, I resist going to bed on time. Even while lying in bed, my mind races to all the things I’d like to accomplish.
The week before my first hospitalization, I had barely slept at all. My mind was filled with ministry ideas (all of which seemed brilliant to me). I would formulate the next day’s plan while lying in bed, then move on to solve the problems of the congregation one by one, laying out a year, five-year, a ten-year ministry plan. It all came together amazingly, fitting together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. In my mind, I had solved the problems of the church, my family, even the world. All the while things in reality were falling apart around me.
The crash occurred one cold winter Sunday. I had gone to church around 5 a.m. and noticed one of our signs was bent over. I became convinced someone was plotting to overturn our ministry, but I was determined that we would keep pressing on.
All through the morning I was a ball of energy, flitting from one person to the next. I thought I was saying profound things but now realize I was just creating confusion. In the sermon I was moved to tears over mundane sentences.
The afternoon was a blur of activity. A nursing home service. Home visits. Sermon preparation. I didn’t bother going home. And I don’t think I ate.
That evening I led youth group. I played the R.E.M. song “It’s the End of the World (As We Know It)” while literally bouncing off the walls. A light fixture fell, and I was sure it was a sign the End was near.
Fortunately, I made it home that night and agreed to admit myself to a nearby psychiatric hospital the next day. I had done some outrageous things but had yet to jeopardize my standing as a pastor. God helped me make it to the hospital before I had a complete breakdown.
The experience was certainly a humbling one. While I still sometimes resent limits, I’ve learned to stay within certain bounds to stay healthier and sane for the sake of the LORD. The “affliction” I experienced being hospitalized and medicated before doing great damage to myself and others has taught me to use greater caution, to maintain balance.
No more bouncing off walls. Now when I listen to R.E.M., I keep my ear buds on and channel my energy into healthy and safe speed walking.