I am one of the healthiest people I know! It’s not because I live a healthy lifestyle, per say… but I was just blessed with an amazing immune system. I can’t remember ever having the flu… and even when I come down with a cold, I may be out of commission for 24 hours, and I’m done.
However, in 2010, I became a complete mess physically. Canker sores and cold sores decided to take turns making an appearance for 4 months straight. My left eye would twitch for hours at least once a week. I developed gallstones which resulted in the removal of my gallbladder. I had insomnia for 3 months: I would survive on 2-3 hours of sleep a night, and then I would crash for 12 hours on my days off. It’s obvious that this is sure sign of unhealthy life, most likely related to stress. However, I couldn’t see how bad of shape I was in. I kept thinking it’ll just get better. It took some serious intervention from my friends to realize how horrible I had looked and felt.
I rarely look or feel stressed… but when I’m not doing well, it usually manifests itself in physical illness. As a workaholic (I actually enjoy work most of the time), I failed to see how burnt out I was. In addition, my soul was hurting and tired, but I failed to see how much I needed rest and care because I was too busy caring for others in ministry. I was also in a very toxic work environment, but I refused to see how much it was affecting me… because I kept telling myself to suck it up and plow through. Things had to get worse before I was able to see that I needed to make some serious changes in my life.
After suffering from an ongoing physical ailment, I had two friends that intervened and spoke truth into my life. They told me that I needed to resign from my position at my church before it literally kills me. They called, emailed, and texted me every few days to make sure I was okay and to keep me accountable. They kept telling me that the relationships and the love I have for the kids and families in my ministry would continue beyond my position in the church… and they kept telling me that I wasn’t going to be effective in my ministry if I continue down this road. It took me several months to actually hear them. Things did get worse, and I finally turned in my resignation after a whole year of suffering through my ailments.
So what have I learned? I am not invincible! I can’t save everything and everyone. I need to know my limitations. I need to ask for help. And I need to be willing to leave toxic environment for my own health. As someone in ministry, it’s easy to become a martyr… but when I look back, I don’t know that my presence was effective because I was in such a bad shape. I learned that it’s not my ministry, my people… but God’s ministry and God’s people. He takes care of His people, and it’s not up to me to make sure they’re well at the expense of my own health. I still keep in touch with families from that ministry, and we can all agree that I stayed in that ministry a year too long.
It literally took 12 months for me to rest, renew, and restore both physically and mentally. Emotionally, I’m still working on forgiving few individuals… and I’ve asked for forgiveness from few as well. Today, I make sure I take “Gloria Days” at least twice a month. “Gloria Days” are when I unplug, go to the beach and enjoy God’s beauty, or spend time with life-giving friends and family. I pay close attention to my body. I am also learning to be more vulnerable and to ask for help when I’m overwhelmed or tired. At the risk of sounding Oprah-ish, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be as effective in your ministry (or relationship) to others in your life.
Take Care of Yourself!
Gloria S. Lee – Graduate of UC Berkeley and Talbot School of Theology, Gloria has been in vocational ministry to children, students, and families for over 20 years. She loves equipping leaders and parents to help kids love and follow Jesus. She is a contributor to Children’s Ministry Magazine, International Sports Ministry curriculum, blogs, and few ministry books out there. Gloria loves anything Wonder Woman, the beach, trying out new restaurants, coffee, traveling, and just chilling at home with a good book or a show on Netflix. She’s currently on staff at Menlo Church in Northern California.