Many years ago I ran across an article written by Pastor Bill Hybels. This was long before Hybels, like so many other pastors, self-destructed and disappeared (as a result) due to some sexual sin. The article had to do with a state of exhaustion or burnout that Hybels had been experiencing. There he wrote about how this burn-out had led to a time of self-reflection and asking questions of himself: how was he doing spiritually…physically…maritally…etc. After some time of examining his life in these different areas he finally concluded he was just emotionally burned-out and that this was due to his having spent so much time with a number of individuals with very great needs. In the article, as I recall, he went on to identify these needy people as EDPs: emotionally draining people. If you have not yet learned about these people, you soon will.
Fortunately, Burning Hearts does not consist of a bunch of EDPs. But when one has been pastoring for nearly 37 years, one tends to gather these people around oneself. They may not even live in the area any longer, but due to the relationship formed with them (years, even decades ago), they still have your phone number. These people, as Hybels described them, are takers, not givers. They may be friendly, and they may support the work of the church, but they are takers: emotional takers. They can sap you of everything you have leaving your emotional gas tank empty. The temptation you will face, as you interact with them, is to try and fix them. But it is useless…at least humanly speaking. Rarely will they actually take your advice. And as for their life – often the sum total of a long list of poor decisions – they will most likely continue to make those same poor decisions until the day they die.
For Hybels, the answer to the EDPs was to find emotional refueling in doing things that he enjoyed (playing tennis, sailing, learning to fly an airplane). For my dad it was working on horse drawn carriages. For me it has been playing sports, going "antiquing" with Ruth, or buying, repairing, and selling things. When younger it was spending time with the children. I cannot say what it will be for you. You will find need to find what works best for you. This is one of the reasons why you should develop hobbies or at least a hobby. You will need something to refill your emotional gas tank.
By His Grace,