Investments and Returns

The longer I work here, the longer my days become. I was assured when I was hired that I was not expected to work long hours - that I was good for the 9-5 workday. But I look back on this past week and realize that I've been showing up by 8:30, and leaving after 5:30, and there have been a couple days I've bordered on staying until 6. The more responsibilities I have, the more I get carried away with tasks and projects (and lose track of time!). The more responsibilities I have, the more pressure I feel to impress my boss.

As I was riding home on the bus the other evening, I started thinking about how my work days have lengthened and how my time at home has shrunk. I realized how much I've started thinking about work, even when I'm not there. To some, this might be considered a positive. I look around my office and see plenty of people who truly live for their work.

I can think of a couple people in particular for whom "work is life" would be the ultimate aspiration, because in achieving that, they believe they will be noticed and promoted and showered with praise and promotions. For them, work is the ultimate investment with the possibility for significant monetary and status returns.

I want to say that I'm not one of those people for whom "work is life" is a life-goal or even a reality, except that as I inch closer and closer to ordination, I realize that I have committed myself to a calling that demands that my work and my life overlap in a huge way. The returns here are not money or fame, status or glory. But the intensity of the investment is the same. It honestly scares me.

All this week, I've gone to bed feeling guilty for "ditching out" on my husband by coming home late. I feel bad when I don't have the energy to cook dinner, or when I'm so tired in the evenings that I watch TV like a lazy bum instead of doing things that I enjoy, doing things that need to get done (like laundry or the dishes), or getting out of the apartment, even to go grocery shopping. We want a family - we want kids and a dog and all of that - and I want to set myself up to be a good mother, a good wife, AND a good pastor. The blessing to church work is that your time is flexible, and you have a different sort of supportive community than you do in a corporate office. Churches and families go together better than healthcare financial management and families do.

But I still will worry about keeping my life in balance - setting (and keeping!) good boundaries that let me invest fully in both my calling and my family. Today, it's Friday. It's 4:41pm. My boss left early today, and I have no significant work left to do that can't wait until Monday. I'm making the choice to go home, to take care of my under-the-weather husband, to make a point of doing things I enjoy tonight, and to start building better habits that help me to keep my investments (my priorities!) better in check.


  1. It's going to be a tough balancing act your whole life long. So try to put good habits in place early. Yes, a pastor's work day is very flexible. Our synod's guidelines encourage pastors to take two days a week off. For me those days are Friday and Saturday. It means having my sermon and everything else done by the end of my work day Thursday.

    This past week I had a funeral on Saturday which meant attending the visitation on Friday. There go my two days off. So I'm planning to take this Thursday off in addition to my Friday and Saturday to make up for what I didn't get off last week.

    I beat myself up quite a bit for not getting out to visit our shut-in members enough. But I have to keep reminding myself that I was called to be a husband and a father too, in fact I was called to those vocations before being called to be a pastor. I'm not going to start ranking which of my callings is more important. I just have to keep striving for balance.

    It's a constant struggle. You're finding it already. God bless you.