In The Book of Common Prayer, p. 324 we hear the summary of the law.
Hear what the Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
For some people, loving a neighbor is much easier than loving yourself. And if we don’t really love ourselves, how well are we truly able to love others?
Working in the church can by physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting. Working at a job that pays the rent, food bills, tending to family needs, and then trying to meet the expectations of people at church on top of your own can be simply overwhelming. And, the more you give to people, the more they want. The demands on time and energies are incredible. And, too often, the first thing that is sacrificed to the needs of home, job, and church is nurturing our bodies and spirits.
For those who travel on airplanes, think about the pre-takeoff instructions regarding oxygen masks. You are told to place an oxygen mask over your own face before assisting a child or anyone else. This is good advice.
You are the only one who can take care of yourself. No one else will. You are the only one who can arrange your schedule to allow time to be quiet. No one else will. You have the power to make choices in your life.
Here are some tips for taking care of yourself:
- Stay in touch with God. Talk to God as easily as you would talk to a loved one standing in the room. It is not always necessary to be in a church building with stained glass windows and a cross and be on your knees to offer your prayers to God. Your words do not have to be in any set format. They are your words. And if you cannot think of words to say, understand that God hears the words your mind and lips cannot form. Communication with God can be so simple and we usually go out of our way to make it complicated.
- Find a spiritual director and work with that person. Yes, that may be just one more thing to add to the schedule, but this is time for you. Learn to know and love yourself in your relationship with God the Creator, Redeemer, and Companion.
- Find the child in you, and when you do, hang on to that precious being. . . that person who wants to be spontaneous, laugh uncontrollably, go out and play.
- Ponder what things you do that are life-giving and those that are life-draining.
- Establish boundaries.
- Tell your self you are okay. We know that after everything God created it was declared good.
- Take 15 minutes each day to be quiet. . . you would take that amount of time to eat a meal or take a bath. . . you would take double, triple, or quadruple that time to go back and forth to work. . you would multiply that amount many times over to watch TV. . . can you not find 15 minutes a day to call your own?
- Keep a journal. Occasionally read sections of your journal weeks or months previous and ponder how you have changed.
- In your quiet time, be silent and let God speak to you.
- In your quiet time, read and ponder scripture or a hymn text or some fine selection of spiritual literature.
- In your quiet time, open a religious art book to any page and see how God is speaking to you through the picture.
- Learn to say “no” with grace and without guilt. If someone asks you to do a special project or favor, give yourself permission to say, “I’d like some time to think about this. I’ll call you and let you know my decision.” Then take the time you need to consider what the task will cost you in time and energy and what the benefits might be.
- Do not be so hard on yourself when you fail. The Shakers used to do a very simple dance to the music of 554 (’Tis the gift to be simple). They moved two steps forward and invited God’s grace with their hands; then they moved one step backward. The symbolism is lovely: God’s grace allows us to move forward, but, because we are human and occasionally fail, we step back; then God’s grace allows us to move forward again.
- Consider completing a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire to learn more about your personality strengths, and how they affect your role as a church music leader.
- Discover your sources of energy and enthusiasm and nurture them.
- Take time to enjoy making music for sheer pleasure, instead of struggling to learn an anthemor voluntary to meet a service or rehearsal deadline.
- In your quiet time, ponder a thought: We’re not in control. . . God is.
The only thing in life that does not change is God.
We are all in process. . . trust the process.
“Religion is for those afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there.” (Author unknown) “Yesterday is a canceled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is cash in hand; spend it wisely.” (Author unknown)