Something happened to me in my early 40s that confused me. The church was growing by 20 percent or more each year, and we were building buildings, adding staff, and the requests to speak and teach outside of our church were increasing. I was invited to lead the preaching department at Bethel Theological Seminary as a permanent part-time professor; I couldn't have scripted my life any better. Everything I was doing seemed to fit who I was. But about two years into it, I was miserable.
I didn't see it at the time, but the demands on my life had outgrown my ability to keep up. I felt tethered to so many different people and obligations that one day I took my canoe out to a local lake in the driving rain, paddled out to the middle, and just sat there for two hours. With rain and tears streaming down my face, I looked up toward the grey sky and said out loud, "What's wrong with me?" What confused me was that everything that I was doing was good. But doing all of it was slowly sucking the life out of me.
The cracks started showing up in harsh comments and bursts of anger toward my wife, kids, and staff. I had become a recluse at the office. I sequestered myself behind a closed door, because I had to crank out a sermon, lesson plan, or meeting agenda. Tensions between my staff and me were swept under the rug. If someone got hurt, well, as far as I was concerned, it was tough luck, suck it up, and just do your job. There was no real interaction, just get it done and don't bother me, because I was in demand and people should understand that.
At home I was even worse. I was a brooding and angry man who reacted to the smallest slights with hurtful comments and gestures. The kids learned to stay clear and wondered quietly to ...