I was a young pastor, in my mid-20s, and ministry was going pretty well. I worked a lot of hours and put out a lot of energy, but I also saw a lot of fruit.
Then one day I lost my joy. I didn’t know where it had gone – but it was gone.
I read that one of the fist signs of depression is when you don’t enjoy doing the things that used to bring you joy.
I was in a rut.
I am by nature a big, loud, extroverted, animated guy. It is not natural for me to be in a funk. Regardless, I was in a deep funk.
My entire spirituality at that point consisted of:
- reading the Bible and
- hearing from God.
Both of those had stopped working for me.
I went away on a prayer retreat with two trusted friends. We drove to a cabin on lake in New Hampshire that some folks in my congregation owned. The cabin had already been shut up for the winter but they said we could go and use it. We just needed to take care to drain the water and shut down the fireplace when we were done.
It didn’t work. I tried to pray but it just didn’t happen.
After the weekend was over we were driving back to New York and I was growing bitter. The longer we drove in silence (one of my friends was sleeping in the back seat) the more it seemed like I was seething inside.
I sort of said to God “I came all the way out here to meet with you and get recharged and … nothing. You just leave me depleted?”
It must have been the use of that word ‘recharge’ that was providential because my imagination was sparked. Way back in High School automotive class I had learned about car batteries. Car batteries are replenished by what is called a ‘trickle charge’. It is a slow, steady current that gets the battery ready go as you drive.
When a battery loses its power, you can ‘jump’ it (with jumper cables) and infuse the battery with a huge surge of power. This works, but it is not good for the life of battery. Do it too often and you can fry the plates, making it impossible for the battery to receive a charge anymore – even from a jump.
I had fried my battery.
My life at that point was not set up for a slow steady trickle of power. I was set up to run the battery down to almost empty and then, through charismatic experience, get a jump and get pumped back up. I had done it once too often apparently.
I had confused how a battery works with how a gas tank functions.
It was as if God was saying to me “Slow down. Take a breath. Receive the goodness and gift of existence. Enjoy being alive. Trickle charge back to full strength”.
I needed to make some changes. The spirituality of a young man was not going to sustain me long-term. It was already failing me.I needed to grow into a healthier more sustainable spirituality.
I also found out that somewhere along the line I had shorted out some lights and gauges on my dashboard. I would have to rewire some of my internal monitors and reset the ways that my internal reality sent me messages of health and of warning.
I like that Tony used a car analogy to frame this chapter (chpt. 9). I use them too. There is one problem, however, with my use of car analogies for soul stories. The soul is not a machine and spirituality can not be mechanized.
There is a reason that Jesus used farming analogies. It wasn’t just because he lived in an agrarian society. Jesus just as easily could have talked of Roman wagons or something. No, he talked of birds and flowers and fields for a reason.
It is no accident that Tony came back to health in the water. Ancient pools and worn rock are a good combination. Randy Woodley likes to remind me that many Native communities call water ‘first medicine’.
The car analogy works for me – as an analogy. It is a word picture or a metaphor. It helps to diagnose the problem … but it is not the solution.
The solution is deeper and wetter. It is slower and quieter.
“”The one who turn to the Lord shall be as a fountain filled with living water, and streams shall flow out of them” – John 7:38
I would love to hear how you recharge.