Excerpt from Seed Falling on Good Soil, by Gordon W. King
Our daughter Tara introduced me to the category of people identified as “the done.” Though these individuals were once sacrificially involved in community organizations or religious congregations, one day, perhaps after a long period of attrition, they determine that they are done and withdraw from their previous activities and commitments. Their removal is neither a temporary hiatus nor a time of reflection. They are finished.
We probably all know pastoral leaders who have decided that they are “done.” The gifted ones move on to other professions, with no intention of returning to parish ministry. Social service agencies and international organizations also have to deal with the departure of formerly productive staff members who become tired of heavy workloads, inadequate budgets, and the unrelenting pressure of human need. They, too, are done. Even more troubling are those clergy, Christian workers and social activists, who lose their passion, yet continue to fill professional roles without engaging their hearts and entering into deep relationships with people. They write proposals, prepare reports, manage budgets, deliver sermons, and protect their careers. But the fires have gone out. Some of these Christian ministers and activists will gradually fall into patterns of depression or addiction.
The parable of the good seed and the good soil addresses the theme of resilience. It reminds us that a fruitful life requires a good heart and steadfast endurance. Most of us who have worked in the borderlands will confess to times of depletion, when our hearts have been compromised by our egos and our motivation to serve has largely disappeared. Sometimes the “funk” lasts a few days. It becomes serious when we sink into an uninspired routine. Ruth Hailey Barton has listed some common characteristics of depletion: irritability, restlessness, emotional numbness, overwork, lack of self-care, the perception of threats, compulsive behaviors, and abandonment of spiritual practices.3 Many of us have been there. Some of us are wondering if we can ever get out. We want to live good stories of fruitful engagement with the world, but we feel weighed down and unproductive. Continue reading