One of my sabbatical goals was to read through the New Testament this summer – the church leadership called it “scriptural immersion.” I was surprised by my resistance to doing it. My significant burnout was one factor, but that wasn’t the whole story.
When I started seminary, I read an article that talked about the danger of making Bible-reading and prayer into part of my professional job description rather than a spiritual discipline, but I didn’t expect it to happen to me.
It makes sense. I used to do computer programming as a hobby – until I started doing that for a living. Who wants to go home and do more work? I didn’t. It was no longer a fun thing I did for myself.
Reading the Bible and even setting aside specific times for prayer were painted with the same brush as church administration, expense reports, newsletter articles, and even preaching. Stuff I have to do. As I became more and more burned out, more things moved from the “Things I’m Passionate About” list to the “Things I Have to Do for My Job” list. At some point, without my realizing it, reading the Bible became something to do because I needed to teach a Bible study or preach. Not a good place to be if you consider that we don’t live by bread alone but by the Word of God.
God was gracious and gentle with me during that time, but I always had a sense that it wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Part of the difficulty came from turning the things God intends as a blessing to all Christians into an obligation for a job.
So I didn’t finish reading the New Testament – that felt like an obligation. But I did get to re-experience the joy of reading the Bible. I can read any part that strikes my fancy that day. I can research a topic I’m interested in. Or I can just experience the comfort of one of my favorite Psalms.
I’m not quite out of detox yet, and it will be a challenge as I re-enter my pastoral role to make sure I don’t slide back into seeing it as an obligation/job requirement.
Anyone have ideas? Let me know!