Lesson 1 - The Scattered Self

Introduction

Stressed about Rest

As Chuck illustrates with reference to his own experiences in pastoral ministry, those of us who work for churches or nonprofits are overworked and underpaid. And yet, since we feel called to our ministries, we push and push and push—even to the brink of exhaustion. 

And not only that, we stress about how we’re going to rest, which turns our Sabbath practices (if we even have them) into just another source of anxiety, just another thing to attain. That’s easier said than done, however. Augustine of Hippo spoke of the “scattered self”—in other words, we are a riddle even to ourselves; our attention and our affections are divided and chaotic; and our hearts are out of joint, never wholly devoted to “the one thing that is needful” (Luke 10:42 KJV). 

Reflect:

  • Where in your ministry or your work do you feel exhausted? What is the source of this fatigue?  

  • What Sabbath/rest practices do you have in place? Do they work? Why or why not?  

  • Where do you feel “scattered” in your spirit? Try to list all the competing demands on your time and attention which are pulling your heart out of joint. 

The Antidote to Exhaustion

But Chuck argues that there’s something more than overwork going on here. Pastors run themselves ragged not just out of a sense of ambition or loyalty to their calling, but because of a divided heart—a haunting sense that they are not enough. Our physical fatigue is actually a symptom of something much more serious: spiritual exhaustion.  

Paradoxically, we try to fight this exhaustion either through more work or through rest. But even if we physically stop working, our spirits can remain restless. And that’s because, as Chuck explains, “the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest. The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”

The thing about wholeheartedness, though, is that it can’t be attained. This causes difficulty for us, because “attaining” is the only way we know. If we’re going to find true rest for our souls, we’re going to have to learn to stop trying for it. Listen to what Chuck says here:

What if our wholeheartedness—what if our flourishing—can’t be attained by better time management strategies? What if can’t be attained by control or achievement? What if it’s something deeper?

Chuck DeGroat

Reflect:

  • Before we go further into the course, how would you define “wholeheartedness”? Why is this concept so elusive?  

  • Why do you think that humans in general, and pastors in particular, are so drawn to strategies and programs? Why is it so difficult to free ourselves from “attainment” thinking?

Have you ever felt a sense of angst and restlessness regarding your work? Have you ever wondered if you were doing what God has called you to do?
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