Compassion Fatigue

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Monday, February 27th. The 6th day of Lent.

There was this moment in 2009 when I knew for sure that I had to get out of the ministry. It was on a Wednesday night and a woman came up to me and told me there was a problem with a door knob on one of the Sunday school room doors.

A wave of despair washed over me and I said to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Shortly after that I began to have fantasies where no matter what people said to me, I responded by saying, “I don’t care.”

Baptisms are down? I don’t care.

Advent is in 6 weeks and we don’t have a theme? I don’t care.

We’re under budget and probably need a stewardship sermon? I don’t care.

Your aunt Matilda has cancer you say? I don’t care.

You think we need to put together a comprehensive ministry plan and schedule our goals for the next 5 years? I don’t fucking care.

The state of not caring seemed so wonderfully restful to me that I would fantasize about it the way some people fantasize about going on a vacation to a beautiful island paradise. I think it’s probably clear that it was time for me to stop being the shepherd of a congregation. Caring is a big part of that job description.

So I retreated into my house, got a job working from my computer, and didn’t have much to say to anyone for a couple of years. Occasionally I would show up in church and sit on the back row with my eyes closed. Mostly I went to the local Quaker meeting because no one was saying anything, therefore no one could possibly ask anything of me.

I now live with a paranoid fear that someone is going to ask me to care about something. A cause or a charity or a church or something like that. Good things. Things we should care about. I’m frightened that if someone mentions something like that I might end up sitting at home at night worrying about hungry people, or whether or not a church is healthy, or if any little kids in Russia need adopting and what we should do about that.

That scares the shit out of me. See, right now, just typing that, my foot is bouncing up and down under my desk. Awful.

My heart feels very small right now. I have room in it for Jeanene, the three sisters, and a few close friends. All I want is to make enough money so that I can not be afraid and sit at home in the evening and laugh and watch tv and read or something. That’s my goal in life right now. Not to feel bad and to do simple things in the evening. Like go to the grocery store and buy food. No one talks to you at the store. Very little chance of finding anything there that I should care about.

I think this might be why I’ve gravitated to the Espiscopal Church. I’m completely unqualified to do anything. You have to go through all kinds of special training to do anything in the Episcopal Church. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand anything. I’m not even qualified to hand out stuff at the door. If I got up and started handing out orders of worship, someone would say:

“Excuse me sir, you haven’t been to the official ushers and greeters class have you?”

“No.”

“Have you been through the lay theology course?”

“No.”

“Have you been to the new members class?”

“No.”

“Are you even a member?”

“No.”

“Oh, well just sit down and listen. You don’t have to do anything. We’re just glad you’re here. I have a pamphlet that describes in 3rd grade language what it means to be a Christian.”

“Sweet. Give me two of the pamphlets. One to read and one to draw on.”

I assume at some point I’ll get over this and Jesus will come knocking and I’ll have to get back in the game. But for now I just want to watch Downton Abbey and know that my mortgage will get paid on time.

Gordon

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  • a

    why is there a cow in the living room?