The End of My Rope

Ever have one of those weekends where everything seemed to come together reasonably well, but you left feeling totally spent? And if that weekend comes after a particularly busy time of ministry, it can put you in a hard place. That was my weekend. A little insight into my personality; I am a recovering perfectionist with insecurity issues and achievement as one of my top five strengths. I do whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of the cost to me and my well-being. I’m a technologist and a problem solver, and because of that, much of my time is spent solving other people’s problems with technology. In short, if you're reading this blog, we're probably very much alike, you and I.

This weekend was to be a simpler weekend for me. I’ve been short-staffed by 3-4 people  every weekend for well over a month. Last weekend was Good Friday and Easter, which meant an 80 week leading up to a weekend of 7 services in 3 days. But this weekend, I wasn’t scheduled to do anything. Well, except hang some signs for the new set. Should have been easy. Except it wasn't. The signs took a lot longer, we had issues with the lift, I needed to fix the projector alignment, ProPresenter was giving us some issues, I discovered a broken encoder on the 5D, the lighting board was acting up, and we lost half our house lights.

On top of that, our regular FOH contractor was back, having been gone for a month. At least three times over the weekend, I heard someone say to him, "Man, it's good to have you back! We missed your ears up there." Each person meant it as a compliment to our contractor. But what I heard was, "Man it's good to have you back. It SUCKED with Mike up there." Last week, I heard similar critisism about our Good Friday program (and from someone who's opinion I really shouldn't even care about). Like I said, insecurity issues.

At the end of Sunday, everyone else had left and I had to clear off our 10-high stack of Steeldeck, a set of stairs and the pulpit off the baptistry so facilities could clean it for next weekend. I was pretty shot.

I got home and really wanted to relax. Then my daughter tried to print some homework. The printer started acting up and I had to fix it. It didn’t go well. Not well at all. I pretty much failed Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 6 about fathers not exasperating their children.

I had to spend some time and take stock of my current state of being. I’ve realized that I’ve done it again. I cranked myself up to an unsustainable pace. Any of those issues this weekend ordinarily wouldn’t have bothered me. However, I’m so exhausted, mentally and emotionally from working too hard for too long without a break that I have nothing left to deal with that stuff. My emotional gas tank is empty.

Now, why am I writing all this? Is it because I’m looking for pity, encouragement or validation? Not really; though encouragement and validation is always nice. The real reason I’m being this transparent and vulnerable is because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who's been here. If you're a tech guy in a church, chances are you've been exactly where I am right now. You may even be here right now. And if not, you haven't been doing this long enough. One thing that's become clear as our little community of TDs has come together around blogs, Twitter, the CTDRT and CTAN is that we all have days (or weeks, or months) like this. I hit this point about a year ago (and vowed I'd never let it happen again) and felt like I was a failure as a TD, as a church staffer for getting this burned out. And yet, when I realize that others have been in this place as well, it helps me understand that I'm not the only one. My hope is that by putting this out in the open, at least one person may read this and say, "Oh my gosh, I'm not the only one! I'm not crazy or a failure!"

But the real question is, how do we get out of this? The answer may vary, but for me, I need a vacation. Not a quasi vacation where I come in late or work from home, but a real, don’t think about work, answer e-mail, send out notifications or make phone calls vacation. That’s hard to do, and it takes at least 5-6 consecutive days off for me to actually recharge.

And that’s what I’m going to do. I have commitments for the next two weeks, but 14 days from today, I will be starting a 6-day vacation. That’s going to mean hiring extra contractors to cover stuff at work, and I don’t care. I need the time off. During that time, I'm going to completely fast from e-mail. I'm turning off my accounts on my iPhone and quitting Mail on my laptop, lest I be tempted to "just check my work account to see what's going on." I'm changing my voicemail and putting auto-responders on.

I also need to come up with a long-term plan to take more regular vacations. Most tech guys I know never take all their allotted vacation every year. I’ve worked for nearly nine months now, and taken two days off. That's not healthy. I also realized I have to come up with a better system so I can take the week after Christmas and Easter off, and I mean really off. As in, "all my other duties are covered by someone else" off.

It’s likely that I’ll not get this right all the time, but I really need to do a much better job about not letting myself get to this place. And the harsh reality is, I did this to myself. Yes, I have a lot of responsibility at church, and what I do is important. However, I have the freedom and blessing from my boss and church leadership to take care of myself. And if I failed at anything, it's that. I didn't take care of myself. And when I don't take care of myself, my family suffers. And that's just not acceptable.

I hope this has been helpful for someone out there. If even one person relates to this and has the courage to make a change, I'm thankful. You're not alone. And one of the best things we can do is lean on each other. Now, do what I'm doing and get back to your day off.