The above words come to mind when I work with ministers who face the constant challenges of “our work”. I often say to my brother and sister clergy, “We can get awfully thirsty giving other people water.” Anyone in ministry knows what I mean. We who are called on to provide water to thirsty souls learn over time that giving the water does not mean drinking the water.
Those whom we serve must think that we have some kind of artesian spring that naturally feeds our spirit. Not true. We too need to stop by the well for our own thirst but we get busy giving the water to others and then wonder why we end up thirsty; sometimes real thirsty. Thirst can lead to disappointment, bitterness, burnout, and even depression. The care-giver ends up needing to be cared for. But whose job is it to do that?
Eugene Peterson taught me long ago that it is foolish to think that our employer will take care of us. The church as an institution is not geared to do that. Our people may say “take care of yourself,” but in the next breath have yet another request for us to “do”. I have not even gotten to how mean spirited some church folks can be when they do not get what they want and need or if the pastor/religious leader disappointments them through actions or beliefs.
I got the reputation in our Church Conference for being the guy who used the phrase, “We shoot our own wounded.” When pastors fall victim to thirst and act out in various forms it becomes a dark spot on the church’s reputation. So the spot must be removed. It’s sad.
All this is to say why I believe so in the work of the Davidson Centre. It is a place both for religious leaders to “stop by the well for some water,” and a place where we who are wounded can go to receive some healing ointment.
I learned all this the hard way and one time after barely surviving a very dark night in my ministry and life I heard a whisper, “Don’t waste your pain.” So for many years I have tried to offer retreats and programs for “water givers.” The Davidson Centre is one of those programs. It is a place for renewal, respite, and healing.