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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

On Walls and Second Winds

I admire people who run marathons, but have never been so inclined myself.  A few times I have participated in 5Ks in which some of the participants have run the entire distance, but I have limited my own running to distances approximating 50 yards.  Nonetheless, I do read and listen, and have seen the testimonies of marathoners that one typically “hits the wall” at about 20 miles, feeling totally spent and worn down.  However, the further testimony is that if one persists in running, a second wind will come along to propel you the remaining six miles.

Attention, interns: Wall dead ahead!

You probably started your internship in late August.  You encountered lots of new people and went to a dizzying number of meetings.  In September it might have felt like you didn’t have much to do, but by late October you were starting to hit your stride, embedded in the life and ministry of this particular congregation, feeling like you were appreciated and making a difference, that you really could do this pastoring business.  And then it was Thanksgiving and Advent and there were concerts and Christmas programs and a dizzying number of worship services and you were exhausted but amped with adrenalin, and wasn’t it something?

Now it is January.  Christmas is over.  You’re not the new kid anymore.  People expect things of you.  There’s not a lot that is exciting on the immediate agenda, unless you’re the kind who can really get off on congregational meetings.  The beginning of Lent isn’t until early March.  And, in most parts of the country, it is winter.  The glamor/December part of winter in which you appreciate the sun on the new-fallen snow and the crispness in the air is over, and it is just cold, damn cold, and the snow keeps falling, and you’re sick of shoveling and scraping and skidding, and your beloved supervisor is taking off for Cancun, but nobody can do that on an intern’s stipend.  You are hitting the wall.

Year after year interns report to us that January was their worst month, the time when they felt most frustrated/depressed/discouraged.  I probably can’t say anything to you to keep you from feeling that way, but if you do, know that it is a typical feeling for interns.

And carefully notice the statement that “January was the worst month.”  Keep picking up your feet and putting them down again.  Get enough sleep.  Eat good food.  Go to a movie.  Read a book that is not overtly about theology or ministry.  Visit with friends.  You’re going to be okay.  This is going to pass.

It is not just going to pass.  Many interns also report that their happiest, most productive times came after they hit the January wall and kept going.  They got a revitalizing second wind that propelled them into times of productivity and fulfillment beyond what they had ever anticipated.

Hang in.  Your second wind is on the way.


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