I am a verbal processor. The tangible outcome of being such a person is that sometimes you don’t discover things to be true until you’ve already said them–as if I’m some prophet who makes things come to pass just by speaking them (i.e. Zummi Gummi of the Gummi Bears). And I had such a moment in the last few days.
I am a writer and pastor–both part-time. Actually both could be full-time, but money-wise…well, you get the picture. I have a great small group of guys who meet weekly and in said group I said the title words: “I hate what I love. I hate everything I’m doing right now even though I know that I love it all.” Now that’s quite an overstatement and I am definitely known for making those, but I do believe this one to be quite true in the moment I’m living in. I hate the things that I should love. And I hate hating them.
We have an amazing church community–a group of young, passionate, missional creative types who are always dreaming of the next big thing and abandoning all creature comforts and security to meet real needs, bring social justice and glorify God in their lives. It’s really the envy of any pastor shepherding the First Church of the Let’s Just Sit There. I also love the writing side. I receive free music, movies, and books all week long and then I get to soak them in and tell you what I think. And I get paid for all that. Seeing your name in print never gets old and I get to work wherever my laptop takes me. It’s a fantastic amount of freedom and a lot of people would love to have it. But as I sat in this small group, I was detailing a hatred toward these things–how I feel robbed of any passion to do them, how I loathe any new commitments I have to take on. And it comes down to one thing: I’ve overcrowded myself. Too much of a good thing equals, well, you know. As I sat there, I said, “I have things that I want to write. Instead, I’m overburdened with essays and articles and reviews and features that others want me to write. Not only do I not have the time for everyone else, I definitely don’t have any time for me. I don’t even have the time to breathe so that I can figure out the things I want to write.
It can be the same way with church stuff. Here we are in Holy Week, we’ve booked events for every rarely celebrated holiday we can possibly find on a Gregorian calendar and next week looks the same. And yet I’m the one creating pressure on myself to be at each thing, to meet with each person, etc. One day we were leaving church, my wife and I, and we stopped to chat with several on the way out. When we were finished, she commented, “Do you realize that you just made all those meetings with people? You were the one saying, ‘We should get together soon.’ You create your own mess.”
So as I’m running on the proverbial hamster wheel, I am realizing that I’m the one who constructed the circle, set the speed and got inside of it. Nobody helped me with this. There is no church board saying, “Matt, you need to meet with x amount of people and attend z amount of events.” And there is no person saying, “You have to grab every writing opportunity that you can. Say yes to it all.” It’s my own doing which leads to my undoing. And now I hate the things that I should love. Instead of freedom of self-employment, it’s a prison of never leaving work. And worst of all, I feel robbed of the joy that these things should bring me.
God has blessed me in amazing ways with the gifts of both vocations and yet I’m ruining the beauty of what I’m surrounded by. Um, there’s no happy ending here. I’m knee deep in the middle of such feelings, although I realize the last paragraph should properly close these thoughts. Maybe I could use my Zummi powers to say, “And then, Matt realized his mistakes, said no to a million things and discovered the beauty of his life once again.” …didn’t work.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.