Maybe Less Can Be More

In thirty-five years as a minister, I did my share of crisis work where I comforted people who were experiencing their worst and sometimes final moments of life. I was a pastor, a hospice chaplain, and even a volunteer ambulance driver.  I did funerals, visited the hospitals, and went out to scenes where someone had just died, either slowly or suddenly. 

It was rewarding work and after a lot of years I got good at it.

But the work also became more difficult as time went on. I felt the wounds of others more acutely and they accumulated somewhere within me. They’re still there.

In my last year, whenever I visited the hospitals or nursing homes, I’d start shaking before I entered the building. I would become dizzy and my heart would pound. I’d tamp it all down and force myself to go in and comfort the people.

A lot of things contributed to this anxiety, but suffice it to say I simply reached my limit. 

It has been nearly four years since I left professional ministry and I still feel like I’m convalescing.  The anxiety and grief can come flooding back when triggered at unpredictable moments.  A troubled person in the line at my register, a sad drama on TV, or sometimes just my thoughts during a quiet moment will trigger me and I’ll cry and shake like I did during my last year.    

On occasion, I still do funerals for those who need a humanist minister. I’m glad I can still be of help this way, but it costs me emotionally, and it takes at least a day to recover. My counselor suggested I allow myself that time instead of trying to ignore it and jump back into my normal schedule.

Maybe it’s okay to be sad about the past.

But is this all I can do from now on? Am I the guy who was once the starting quarterback but is now diminished to where I only play occasionally off the bench?

I can’t look at it like that. I have a whole life to live and it does not include becoming less as I get older. Maybe I’m quieter and less noticeable but I cannot be just… less

Maybe I’m still in the state of becoming and I’m actually more.  Being older, slower, more tender—maybe those are signs of development rather than diminishment.

I think I’ve been expecting to rest enough to where I can reclaim the energy I used to have and then step back into a life as intense as I once led. But I think I’m progressing to the next level of life. I choose to see becoming older and more tender as symptoms of growth and meaning rather than diminishment.

It feels like I’m less but maybe I’m more.

3 thoughts on “Maybe Less Can Be More

  1. David,
    This made me cry because we both have the same sort of anxiety. But with that said, I have always seen you as a strong, compassionate , smiling always , type of guy. Hearing you talk so kindly of your wife, always, makes me know your heart is bigger than most. You definitely are more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for modeling the strength to be vulnerable, David. Your description hits home for me and I’m sure many other former pastors who need to move on, but (thankfully) have not lost our love for others.

    Liked by 1 person

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