This year has been, at least emotionally, the most difficult year of my life.
It started last November with a difficult situation within our church community that caused me to doubt my leadership abilities.
Then we moved into winter, that dark time of year that causes depression in many people, myself included. My heart, mind, and soul were heavy.
We all know what happened as winter began to turn into spring - pandemic and lockdowns. I was faced with trying to pivot and provide online worship and resources for people, while not being able to meet face to face to figure things out.
In May my right leg began to hurt. I lived with the pain for a week, trying to convince myself that it wasn't what I knew it was - a blood clot. This was my second clot and I knew that I would now be on blood thinners the rest of my life.
During this time came BLM and protests, and the added pressure of trying to figure out the right things to say about an important moment in America. One of the difficulties of being a pastor is the expectation to have a position or at least a thought about everything that happens.
As things began to open up we had the great mask debate and the discussion of whether our not churches should follow the lockdown orders. After all, I was told, President Trump declared churches as essential, so we should be meeting in person.
This was followed by several families informing me they were leaving. Which again had me doubting my ability to do this job as pastor.
Even during the summer, when I am usually depression free, I found myself sinking deeper into depression.
By the end of August, I realized I needed to make a change. Not only was I depressed, but my health was being affected. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, I was not sleeping well, and the simplest activities were exhausting me.
The change started with my wife Jenny telling me about an app from Ransomed Heart that was created in connection with John Eldredge's book Get Your Life Back (which I haven't read) called One Minute Pause. I started doing the app every day, usually more than once a day. It helped me to reorient my life back to God.
Doing The Pause app reminded me that through the Wild at Heart website John Eldredge has a resource of prayers. I began daily praying the Daily Prayer for the Head of Households. This practice helped me to start reading the Bible daily again.
After about a month of putting prayer and Bible reading back into my daily rhythm of life, I was ready to start focusing on my physical health. There were a couple of false starts as I tried to figure out the best way to implement what I knew I was supposed to do. Even though I knew the right things to do I was having trouble doing them.
That is when I found out about another app called Noom. This app/program is designed to help you make a lifestyle change so that you can live a sustainable healthy life. Last week one of the readings that Noom had me read dealt with understanding that there would be setbacks and struggles through this process. To combat that reality I was asked to write an "Oh well" statement that I could use when I stumbled. Mine is, "Oh well, I am still making progress."
The next day I saw this Dave Ramsey tweet:
It is a wonderful thing that we can decide to make changes in our lives. We can make today the day that change begins. It is crucial to remember this.
I also think it is crucial to remember that change is hard. It doesn't happen over night and it doesn't happen just because you know the right thing to do.
Things like overcoming depression, losing weight, getting out of debt, or decluttering your house takes time. If we expect this change to go smoothly, for our habits to shift right this moment, and for our life to be perfect tomorrow we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Making these positive changes in our lives requires time and effort, and more than likely we are going to have a moment or two when we binge on Moose Tracks Ice Cream or put a shopping spree on the credit card, or do something else dumb that we have trained ourselves to do.
That is why we have grace.
God is not expecting us to be perfect. After all He made allowance for repentance and confession. What God is after is our continued progress towards being like Jesus.
I believe in our quest to make changes in our lives the best thing we can do is to give ourselves grace and to remember that we will stumble along the way. Understanding this helps us to own up to our failure and move on by saying, "Oh well, I am still making progress."