Jump directly to the content

Already a subscriber?

Home > 2012 > June Online Only > Pastor With ADD

Fully resolved, once again, to make significant progress on my sermon for the coming Sunday, I sat down to pray. Sermon preparation frustrated me like no other responsibility.

As I tried to concentrate, the red flash of a cardinal landing on the windowsill caught my eye.

What sound does a cardinal make? It will just take second to Google that.

The search engine homepage greeted me with "Malaysian Man Pulls 328 Ton Train with His Teeth." Well, I've got to read about that; could be a sermon illustration.

After reading about the Malaysian man's herculean fear, I tried to remember how my Google search began. Oh, yeah, cardinals! Are the Braves playing the Cardinals soon? Won't take long to check that.

Stop! What am I doing? I need to start working on this sermon. I just need to pray.

"Lord, I have so much on my mind. I need to make some progress on this message today …"

That cardinal is still out there. What's he eating? We have a leadership meal tonight. I need to send out a reminder email …

I stopped praying, and scanned my long list of unread emails. I'll just read the important ones. Scanning the names and subject lines, I saw one from an elder: "CU at Breakfast."

I totally forgot about breakfast! I dashed out the door, hoping to make it to the restaurant before he left. As I raced out the door, my doctor's office called. They wanted to know, had I forgotten my physical?

History of distraction

Recently, at 46, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. In retrospect, the only surprise regarding this diagnosis was that I did not recognize it sooner. The signs were obvious. Most individuals with ADD can look back over the course of their lives and see familiar patterns.

When I was seven, I begged my mother to let me play little league football. I knew only two things about football: all my friends played it and the jerseys were cool. My mother shelled out the registration fee and the cost for cleats and a uniform. It was the beginning of an illustrious two-week career. Football practice proved to be a distraction from more pressing endeavors: searching for four-leafed clovers, chasing butterflies, wondering if The Hulk could beat The Thing, and if either one could beat Superman.

My coach did not appreciate my contemplative spirit. He would grab my face mask and scream, "You don't listen!"

It's a charge I've heard from countless others since. My inability to concentrate has plagued every relationship—with my colleagues, with my wife, and even with God.

My wife jokes that she's wanted to send me a postcard with a picture of the planet Earth, with a caption that reads, "Wish you were here!"

I have "zoned out" of more conversations than either of us care to remember, but she is kind, understanding, and more patient with me than I am.

For years I struggled with frustration, mild anxiety, and a low self-esteem. Sermon preparation highlighted my inadequacies like nothing else. I could only read a few paragraphs before my thoughts drifted. A few frustrating hours later, having little to show for my efforts, I would put sermon prep off for another day. Of course Saturday night would inevitably arrive, and I'd be up late, with a half-baked sermon and a knot in my stomach.

PreviousFirstPage 1 of 3NextLast

Related Topics:CommunicationEnduranceFailureSpouseSuccess
Posted: June 4, 2012

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

Maynard Hesselbarth

June 15, 2012  11:29am

HiDennis. I appreciate your comments about ADD.I regret that we focused on your brother's ADD and didn't understand the effects it had on your life.For that I apologize to you for my parent lack of skills and understanding. I guess I can only plead ignorance of ADD and lack of effort to gain more information about ADD. Love, Dad

Report Abuse

Steffanie Marion

June 07, 2012  5:24am

David, THANK YOU... I was diagnosed at 27 years old (12 years ago). While occassionally on medication, I have yet to truly apply practical "helps" to my everyday life, but after reading your article I will be ordering Delivered from Distraction today (if I remember). With my job on the line, and relationships suffering, something must change. God bless you.

Report Abuse

Josh Kelley

June 05, 2012  1:59pm

I was 37 when I was diagnosed (two years ago) with ADD after a loving, but harsh, review from my Elders. Being on Ritalin has vastly improved my ministry and preaching (so much easier to preach when you don't have to use your energy to ignore the birds chirping outside). It isn't "self-discipline in pill form," but it has made it possible accomplish far more than ever before. And because it is very short term in effect, if I want to make use of the advantages of ADD (which are many), I just don't take any. To any pastors struggling with the stigma of meds, accept your brokenness and get over it! I say that in love and seriousness. You are welcome to contact me if you want to hear how it has helped me. Josh Kelley www.RadicallyNormal.com

Report Abuse
Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Editor's Pick
Changing Notions of Community

Changing Notions of Community

Guiding church in a time of declining attendance.
Sister Sites