I spoke those words aloud to an empty townhouse as I literally fell onto my bed late yesterday afternoon. 

They’re definitely correlated, and perhaps there is a causal feedback loop.  Because the tired-er I get the hard we everything is, which makes me all the more tired.  

This morning, after a nap and a night’s sleep, I didn’t feel tired. I felt broken. 

I couldn’t help but think about the conversation I had with a member earlier this week, a widower of about 3 months.  He was talking about navigating what seemed like a really narrow pathway for him as a man, and was a little surprised when I mentioned feeling likewise in my role as pastor. 

We humans all have big complex feelings, and we sure do like to prescribe who gets to feel what and how.  And get awfully judgmental when folks step outside those norms. 

Here in the southeastern United States at least, men are meant to soldier on through pain and sorrow. Once the funeral was over, he felt the pressure to keep the displays of sadness at home, but also not to enjoy himself around other people “too soon.”  In our context, folks aren’t shy about saying out loud what they think of his attempts to find his emotional footing and figure out who he is as a widower.  

I wonder sometimes if there is a connection between the limited history of representation of women in church leadership and the (only somewhat) unspoken expectation for pastors, priests and ministers to press on as we keep a stiff upper lip.  That we bend the boundaries that protect personal or family time in order to help other people and their households.  

Someone, somewhere (perhaps in a “Christian Greeting Card” company) pronounced October to be Pastor Appreciation Month.  Most of the appreciation gathering invitations and cards I’ve seen reflect the assumption in our part of the world that pastors are men partnered with women.  Clearly, we’ve much work yet to do in breaking through the stained-glass ceiling. 

We also have plenty more work ahead in helping folks in faith communities see the very real need for everyone to bring the fullness of themselves to the table. A culture change like that will require leaders to risk being vulnerable, but the payoff for normalizing being human will be huge. The sooner we are open and honest about the ways life brings us into states of exhaustion, depression, anxiety, etc., the sooner we will see the church advocating for improved access to mental health care providers.

The sad truth is, I fear we are only beginning to see the impact of the pandemic on mental health around the globe, including among those in helping professions. It’s hard. We’re tired. But we’re also worth it, and so are all the families, neighbors, and congregations we work so hard to love.

Rev. Laura Viau is a word nerd, bear collector and triathlete who answered God’s call to congregational ministry after a couple of careers.  So far, her focus has been with churches in transition, currently serving as interim at a PC(USA) congregation on the southern coast of North Carolina.  She blogs way too infrequently these days at The Viau From Here.

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