The question is: how do I know I need a break from people for awhile?
What are the signs? How do I know it is serious enough to warrant a time of relative hibernation?
Intercessory prayer is a time consuming ministry. It can be a stressful ministry that requires a lot of rest and good sleeps to regain the energy it drains from a person. Part of that particular ministry gifting is the ability to hand off each and every problem being prayed about to the Lord for his answers and solutions. You have to be able to emotionally let go of every problem as soon as the prayers leave your lips on their way to God's ears. You have to really care about other people and their problems to be able to enjoy this type of ministry and I truly do.
Unfortunately, this past autumn has seen a rare flare up of OCD on top of nearly 10 weeks of respiratory illness, strong meds and family and other stresses of my own. With my husband equally ill with the same viral infections, the stress of having our son here in the midst of feeling so wretched and a lot of etceteras I am not free to share, everything caught up with me in the past couple of weeks.
One of the first things that alerts me to the fact that I am burning out and not accomplishing my ministry is that I find myself unable to emotionally let go of some of the problems I have been praying about for other people. The problems I find myself fixated on are not usually the big, frightening, life threatening problems that legitimately require a lot of prayer time and energy. The OCD begins to kick in and I find myself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep, or not falling asleep at all, over some ridiculous fringe issue someone casually mentioned in passing that isn't even an actual problem for that person, let alone for me. When I have trouble releasing the problems of others to the Lord it is time for me to step away long enough to mentally and spiritually regroup.
When I find myself feeling resentful that yet another "hangnail" type of problem has been brought to my attention when it is some kind of issue I didn't really need to know about in the first place.....in other words someone mentions some little hassle with no intention of making me think it is a big problem I need to be involved with, and yet it is myself who takes it on subconsciously as something important enough to irritate me, then I know it is time for me to step away long enough to mentally and spiritually regroup.
When I find myself listening to the phone ringing, before I even look at the call display, and find myself thinking "O no, not again!!", I know that time has come.
When the doctor tells me I need to mentally rest and recover from this latest, rather unexpected incidence of OCD then I know for certain I have to take a break from my usual routine for as long as necessary to stablize.
I am grateful that this sort of exhaustion and sillyness happens so rarely. It certainly crept up on me this time. I remember my husband asking me some weeks ago if I was perhaps becoming too caught up in the details of other peoples' issues and if perhaps I should let my friends know I needed to back away from the details of their lives for a time, but I pooh pooh'd his wise counsel and subsequently crashed and burned the other night.
I am discovering I have to be less involved in other peoples' less important problems and I blame the OCD and the illness for it happening lately. No one has been asking me to involve myself emotionally in any of the side details, they have simply been sharing conversation with me...normal conversation we all share with our friends and family and then don't think about much afterward. How many times have I myself blathered on about something that made it seem like a larger issue to the person I was talking to than it actually was? It happens to us all, right? Usually no big deal, get it off your or my chest and then we both forget about it. However, I have not been forgetting about it and hadn't realized it until the other night when I caught myself crying as I sat on the side of the bed at 2am wondering why I had to talk to anyone about anything at all, ever. Not a good sign of my mental state.
So, today I am still feeling unmotivated and mentally exhausted, BUT am feeling good about the flight to BC tonight and the celebration of life tomorrow. The 3 late night flights will not be helpful to my health on any level, although they are assisting my wallet considerably, and I realize the 2 days with my parents is not going to be easy, BUT I know that on the other side of next Wednesday at 2am when I get home, I have no plans made for over a week and can hibernate to my heart's content. I think merely getting out of this suite for a few days will be helpful. Seeing people at the celebration of life that I rarely see will be a good treat. Seeing my husband's family members will be great as it separates me for a few days from the stress of my own extended family issues.
I am looking forward to getting back in touch with my dear friends and back into the groove of deep times of prayer, but for now I am going to think about some other things and deal with some other problems in the lives of my own family.
At least anyone reading this blog will realize that to be a Christian means you will still be human and fallable and not so righteous you can't relate to anyone else on the planet. One of the reasons I was attracted to Jesus was reading all the Bible stories about how God intends to reach out to all, even those of us otherwise incapable of living life well on our own, who have issues and hurts and scars and open wounds and the ability to make the wrong choices time after time without being condemned for it as we turn to God for help every day. In him lies my security and the security of everyone else. What I have been losing track of is that it is up to him to do the actual helping of my friends and family who need deep prayer, not me. It is himself who answers the prayers I and others bring before him.
So, soon I will be available again to participate in the ministry of deep prayer for others. For now I need to get my own "poop in a group" so I can be an effective prayer warrior again.
Have a wonderful day wherever you are and whatever your life circumstances. Remember, spiritually you are not alone unless you choose to be. Jesus is always there for you if you want him to be. His Spirit may be invisible but he is loving and capable of letting you know he cares about you. Have a little chat with him sometime if you haven't before and see what may come of it. He won't take your problems away necessarily, but he will be there, going through life with you and giving you comfort. He is awesome!