The Stress Is Real

There’s been a lot going on, not just in the world, but in our lives and our roles. I’m involved in the search process, transitional process, for two churches. One has now called the candidate, which we are very excited about. Their start date is November, so we’re in the wind down stage here.

Typically we have an overlap of about a month, especially if I’m living in the same community at the time, which we will be, where I’m basically on call for the pastor. We meet formally, typically once a week, handover documents, and talk about the life of the church and get all the logistics laid out.

There’s a little added layer right now with doing church a little bit differently, some of the tech side, and basically then on call as needed. In that month, it works out usually to about a week of work. So really we are definitely in the wind down stage there.

The other church I’m involved with currently has a pre-candidate coming to meet with the leadership privately and consider whether to call them to come for a full candidating event. I’ll know within a few days whether that’s a go or not. So we’ll see, but I could be gainfully unemployed from both places by the end of November, if all goes well, so we are in anticipation of that possibility.

We have been in a fairly conscious seeking mode. Last week I took a lot of time. I did kind of what I call a modular retreat, where I took a half day for each of the five days of the week, where I did some reading, thinking, praying and just mulling on where things were at and what we might be called to. Looking at finances and options and opportunities and weighing all of those factors.

I also wrote an article for our local newspaper here where we’re serving as transitional pastors, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today. The idea that the stress is real.

Quite a few years ago I went to a new dentist as we were in a new community. The hygienist did her thing, and then I met with a dentist and he looked at my teeth. He says, “Hey, I see that you’ve been grinding your teeth for about 10 years.”

I said, “Well, my wife and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary.” I told my wife that and she didn’t think it was as funny as I did. The truth was that I’d also been a pastor for about the same amount of time, just a little bit shorter than we’d been married. My wife is not a stress causing person, so I suspect that the tooth grinding had something to do with it the fact that I was in vocatonal ministry.

What made me think of that story was in the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen some articles highlighting the fact that dentists are seeing more cracked teeth recently. They’re quite sure it’s due to more jaw clenching and teeth grinding as the result of more stress. Even if you’re not feeling stressed, the changes of these past few months are definitely raising your baseline stress from whatever it was before.

Good things like getting married or buying a house or getting a new job are stressful, even though they’re good things. If you throw in lockdowns and masks and hand sanitizers and social distancing and all of that kind of stuff, and if you’re a pastor, trying to figure out how to do church in the midst of all this and be a pastor and care for a congregation, that has a whole other layer of stress. So the question is, how are you handling the stress?

I know historically that I’ve been a tooth grinder and I wear a mouth guard at night and I’ve worn one out in the past. I’ve been learning to learn to relax my jaw. For me, a tight jaw is a good clue that I’m getting stressed and I’m aware of that even through the day. So when I’m aware of that, I take action to lower my stress level. I do things like listening to relaxing music and drink some camomile tea before bed, and my wife encourages me to take some magnesium as well.

Those help, but really probably the most important thing I do is I take that simple directive in scripture where we’re told to cast our cares on him for, he cares for you. Cast your cares on him for, he cares for you, cast your cares on him and he’ll sustain you. At the start of the day after I’ve spent some time in the word, I will just look at my day and think about the things that are weighing on me. Things that might make me clench my jaw and grind my teeth and just pray over them and hand them over to the Lord.

I ask him to be involved and to do what I can’t do, and basically turn those worries and those stresses into a prayer. Taking the things I can’t control and handing them over to the Creator, seeking direction for the actions I should take on the things I can’t control. Basically saying God, here’s the things that stress me out. Please help please do it, I cannot.

I’ve been more conscious of that since seeing those articles because I realized that’s my tendency to have the jaw clenching when I’m stressed, so I have a physical reminder when I’m stressed and it’s a reminder then to step back and to cast my cares on him. I just want to encourage you to do the same.

Stress is real. Whether you feel stressed or not, there is stress that happens and so I encourage you to take some time today, take some time everyday, to cast your cares on him, because he cares for you.

God bless talk to you soon. Press on.

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