Empathy and Work

The first day of our workation has been OK, a mixture of good and bad news really.

A friend of Becky’s went in to have some cancer removed and the doctors discovered it had spread much farther than they’d anticipated.  She lost some important organs like a stomach and intestine and… the point being that it’s taken Becky’s brain off vacationing and placed it squarely on her friend – where it belongs.  I love this about Becky.  She’s overflowing with empathy.  She internalizes the pain of others, never pretending to understand, but always wanting to.  It’s hard for her to be here while her friend is back home dealing with a dark prognosis.  But her friend in in great hands.  Redneck Neighbor’s wife is there with our friend, filling Becky in right now (on the phone in the next room) with the details of the situation and even getting Becky to laugh.

My day, on the other hand, has been great.  I got up late and “taught” about burn-out.  Really, I’m getting paid to tell my story and remind folks of some very basic things I stopped believing and doing that left me physically, relationally and spiritually unhealthy.  Afterwards, several people came by to tell me their story.  A pastor’s wife, a single music minister working two other jobs as well, a seminary student wishing they taught this basic stuff in school – all burned out or believing they’re headed that way.  It was rewarding to say something so simple and see immediate results – people feeling less alone and weird than before, people resolving to quit jobs or ask for a more clear job description, people vowing to take a vacation or take their wife out on a date.  These aren’t world changing resolutions but they could save a marriage, extend the life of a person, build a better dad and a healthier church.

The thing I kept thinking was “Is there something inherently unhealthy about our current church model in America?” The problem of burnout is so rampant, it seems, that it makes me wonder.  Is the problem how we respond to the model we have or is the problem the model itself?  Or is it a combination of the two?

What do you think?