Have you heard about Chris Borland, the 24 year old rookie linebacker for SF, retiring after just one year in the NFL? It shocked me too but I totally understand it. He decided the risks of receiving multiple concussions and shortening his life span and decided to cash out. In youth ministry I don’t have to worry so much about head injuries, unless of course we’re playing dodgeball, but I do worry about the amount of soul concussions I have taken over the years.
What? You’ve never heard of a soul concussion? I did’t either until I thought about a recent incident that rocked me like Chris Borland rocked a running back. I am not one to kiss and tell but it;s suffice to say I found myself in a situation that had me responding like I wasn’t even saved. I lost my cool and I don’t do that very often. It was embarrassing and I was ashamed. My actions and attitude made me think about where that response really came from.
In the ministry you learn to play hurt. Like a football player, you don’t want to be sidelined during the peak of your career. You want to show that you have the goods, that you can shake off the hit and play on. The recent incident I mentioned above pushed my old man, my old nature, the B.C. Paul Turner to the front of a situation and he was not pretty. The reason my flesh jumped up and took hold was not because I had a bad day or because I was living in sin, but because I think I have simply had to many hits to the soul.
A concussion is defined as:
temporary unconsciousness caused by a blow to the head. The term is also used loosely of the aftereffects such as confusion or temporary incapacity.
a violent shock as from a heavy blow.
Now, imagine the happening to your soul over and over again.
A soul concussion can come through betrayal, unkind words, physical threat, disappointment, and a host of other methods all of which our Lord experiences. Jesus wept drops of blood because his soul had taken enough of a beating but He went further still, to the cross, to pay for our sins.
It’s one thing to see shot coming and preparing for it but a surprise blow hurts even worst. It takes our head off and it feels like the moment you see a player get hurt and the stadium goes quiet. The crowd knows he’s hurt and they’re hoping to see some movement, a thumbs up that he’s o.k.. I’ve raised a weak thumb in the past that I am o.k. but, long-term I may not be alright.
You can’t avoid soul concussions. Spiritual hurts and wounds are a part of life and especially a part of the Christian life and you can survive them.
Realize the battle is spiritual not physical
The Apostle Paul warned us to suit up before going out to battle. We need to cover our head, heart, feet, secure everything together with the truth of who we are in Christ, and, unlike football, we get a weapon to fight with.The enemy is not just the devil but the religious people you may work with. The devil is not opposed to using man’s already existing arrogance and pride to make the lives of other believers miserable.
Guard your heart
Like Jesus, I have to watch my “people time’. Jesus took off, got away, and got his soul in line with the Father. The time I spend in the quiet nourishes me and helps me take another step, make it another day. Try not to spend so much time with students or church events because you feel like you have to. Slop away, even if it;s for a few hours and get with the Father for healing and rest.
Assess your position
Maybe you are full time youth worker like me taking stock of his career or maybe you’re volunteer thinking that what you have taken on is too much. It’s not a sin to re-evaluate. We don’t have to be martyrs to our jobs. These are churches, organizations, and communities of people we work for and with. If the environment becomes to toxic it’s time to get some fresh air.
Too many many hits to heart can cause spiritual dizzy-ness and confusion. Before you decide to hang up the cleat for good. Assess the long term risks serving in ministry, take time to sit on the bench, get healing and let God decide if you should get back in the game.