No one likes being sick, especially when you are actually sick. But too often we neglect our health in the name of ministry. I know I do. And I have paid the price. After struggling with a nagging cough for a number of weeks, I was sidelined and confined to the house “resting” with pneumonia. Ugh!
It was a Friday afternoon. I was shopping for our spaghetti dinner fund raiser at our local big box store. As I was shopping, I could feel my body shutting down and a fever rising. By the time I reached the office to unload, I knew I was sick. As soon as I could get home I crawled into bed. I had a low-grade fever of 100˚, body chills and aches, the sweats, and complete exhaustion. But all of that didn’t stop me from getting up and picking a few last-minute items and heading to the church to fire up the stove and ovens on Saturday. I felt horrible but I pushed through the dinner, meeting and greeting our diners while giving instructions to my amazing volunteers.
Sunday came and I continued to push through. I went to church for two services and Sunday school plus our first mission trip planning meeting. I was absolutely exhausted when it was done. So much so, I canceled our high school ministry gathering that night, spending the rest of the afternoon and evening in bed. Monday was my Sabbath. I spent the entire day resting. But Tuesday, I was at the office again. Oh, and I developed the cough.
Four weeks later, the cough is still a problem. Not only did I have to deal with a cough, but I was constantly feeling rundown. Then my wife said something. She remembered back to when she was down with pneumonia. She had all the same symptoms I was experiencing, and it clicked.
That evening I was at the express care facility being diagnosed with pneumonia, in both lungs. Too often, we find ourselves busy with commitments, functions, and activities that rarely allow us to slow down long enough to care for ourselves. We place our careers, our students, our church tasks, and our family’s needs ahead of our own needs. And while we might take a Sabbath, how many of us really take that day to rest? And when we are feeling under the weather, well, many of us just push on because we think we have to.
Being housebound with pneumonia has taught me plenty. I think about that time, and the lessons I had to learn.
WHEN YOU’RE SICK, BE SICK
It might sound a little strange but it’s okay to be sick. None of us are invincible. We too get sick. So, when we start to feel a little under the weather, slow down and take the time to be sick. Take the dday off. Stay in bed. Sleep. Rest. Give your body time to heal and get better.
LISTEN TO THOSE AROUND YOU
There are plenty of people around you who love and care for you. And there are plenty of times when they see something about us before we see it. I had a number of people give me plenty of advice. Some of the advice was helpful, some of the advice was from people just being kind. But the best advice came from my wife and a few very close friends who said I should rest and seek medical help.
GO TO THE DOCTOR
I don’t like taking the time to go to the doctor. You spend too much time in the waiting room, then the examination room, for the doctor to spend 10 minutes with you to tell you you’re sick and prescribe you medicine. But 10 minutes or not, go to the doctor! Get checked out. If it’s nothing more than a cold, then rest until you feel better (not medical advice). If there is something more, you can get it addressed and cared for in a timely manner
I try really hard to keep a balanced calendar. I have the student ministry calendar, my family calendar, and the larger church calendar. And while there are seasons of busyness, I usually have a couple of seasons where the busyness subsides. But what I am learning is the importance of slowing down, even in the busy seasons. We can’t do it all. We weren’t meant to. Talk with your pastor and see how you can find time to slow down even in the busy seasons of life and ministry.
LEARN TO REST
Now for the hardest lesson, learning to rest. What does your sabbath look like? Do you really do things that allow you to rest? Rest your body? Rest your mind? Do you find time on your sabbath to rest in the Lord? Neither do I. My sabbath is writing and reading, taking care of our chickens, ducks, and rabbits, working on projects around the house, or running errands for my wife and our family. Rarely do I take my time off to turn off. But that is going to change. It’s time I learn to rest.
In a career where you are often taking care of those around you, be it your students, parents, your family, or just the ministry of the church, it’s not always easy to take care of yourself. But if you’re not well enough to care for others, is anyone really being cared for?
Don’t wait till you are confined to your bed, resting with the hope of getting to life in a day or so.
Take the time to take care of yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.
– Jay Higham