Core Issues for Adult Children of Alcoholics … and Pastors?

As of late, my mind has been churning in the area of recovery.  As I lead a sexual recovery group for men, an Adult Children of Alcoholics group, and meditate on what it means to recover from sin and recover to the image of God I suppose recovery thoughts are natural.  Recently, in our our ACOA group, I was reminded of several core issues we adult children face:

  • the need to be in control (or the fear of being out of control)
  • low levels of trust (especially if we feel our control is being threatened)
  • the avoidance of feelings (probably because they make us feel out of control)
  • over-responsibility
  • ignoring our own needs
  • all-or-none functioning
  • difficulty with healthy self-disclosure
  • low self-esteem
  • unhealthy boundaries

As I read through these issues – all of which I have faced and at times continue to face – I realized that these very “core issues” are both signs of my own brokenness and traits often prized in ministry.

For example, parishioners want a pastor who is in control.  Pastors are strong and never back down in defending their sheep.  Any sign of not being in control is perceived as weakness, spiritual failure, or perhaps worse.  We’re expected to get it all done, laying aside our own feelings and needs to care for others.  The pastor who is always giving and never taking is the pastor who knows what ministry is all about.  There’s no time for the pastor to feel because there is always another crisis, another opportunity, another soul to save.  Either we’re in this thing we call ministry all the way, or we’re not.  Boundaries?  Pastors can’t have boundaries.  They’re to be accessible 24/7 and should be so spiritual they know before you know that they’re needed.

The solution?  Sabbath.  Sabbath reminds me that I am not, in fact, in control; and that’s okay.  Sabbath forces me to trust that others will carry on even when I am not available.  Sabbath provides time and space to sit with my feelings.  Sabbath takes away all responsibility for the day.  Sabbath provides rest for a weary soul and worn out body.  Sabbath provides balance to an all-or-nothing approach to ministry.  Sabbath allows me to sit silently before God, who searches me and knows me, before I sit talkatively before another.  Sabbath reminds me that God is for me, therefore who can stand against me.  Sabbath allows me to confess that I am human and that I too need time and space to rest.

So, to all my pastor friends – enjoy God’s sabbath.  To all my non-pastor friends – help your pastor enjoy his or her sabbath by allowing them the time and space to rest.

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