27 Feb The Wisdom and Benefits of Watering Your Grass By Dr. Brent Sharpe
As pastors and ministry leaders, our lives are lived outwardly. We are surrounded by need, and those needs tug and pull at us. It’s not unusual to find a minister who is struggling with keeping things rightly aligned – and keeping their vessel full so they have something to give.
In my 40+ years of pastoring and counseling, I can tell you that there will always be needs. If you want to have a healthy marriage, you will need to establish hard boundaries and protect your marriage as your greatest priority – greater than ministry. I’ve heard the thoughts in my head like everyone else, “Surely working on my sermon or taking that phone call from a parishioner is more important than helping my son with his 7th grade algebra or sitting on the couch with my wife.” It’s a lie. The greatest work you can do for the Lord is to honor your commitment to your spouse and children.
If today your feelings aren’t very strong in your relationship, let me encourage you that there’s something you can do about that! You simply need to look at your behavior. Somewhere you’ve neglected something. What is it? Sometime you stopped watering your “grass.” When was it? If you will begin paying attention again, watering again, your “grass” will green up and feelings you and your spouse used to have will come back to life. I believe that’s what God wants for us, to have healthy marriages and to enjoy our journeys with our spouses. He will bless you when you begin to water again.
You know, one of the reasons we often begin neglecting things is because we take our focus off the good qualities of our spouse and place it on the few areas they are not living up to our expectations. We meet other people and think, “I wish my spouse was like this person.” We don’t say it out loud, but it begins to affect our attitude. As the idea grows inside us, we become verbally critical, releasing poison into our marriage. Then we move to the belief that we can’t live without those few qualities our spouse is lacking. We can’t see the forest for the trees, right? This is why infidelity has become a serious problem among ministers. Worn down from giving to those outside the family, they become depleted and determine the wrong things will fill them back up.
It’s important to realize that the very thing we were attracted to in our spouse is the thing that will drive us crazy at some point. For me, it was the spontaneity of my wife. It was attractive until it was just too much. For my wife, it was my stability and predictability. It was attractive until it became boring. The truth is, there’s still plenty to be attracted to with your spouse if you will take the time to water your “grass.” Write a list of the most attractive qualities of your mate. Read it and pray over it daily till you have it memorized. And don’t just internalize the repeating of these wonderful traits. Say them out loud! Let your spouse know what you see in them that’s valuable, uplifting, inspiring, positive. It’s quite likely they’re battling with thoughts of not being good enough and your words would speak life to them. Use your words for good and encourage your spouse.
Remember, life is not about perfection but progress. You’re not perfect and they’re not perfect. You’re both growing, learning and adapting. It’s likely you both need to do better at watering each other. I’ve written another blog providing practical tips to improving your marriage relationship which I encourage you to read. It is here.
Before I lead you to believe the only “grass” you need to water is your spouse, let me also remind you of the importance of self-care. The lack of it is a top reason ministry individuals struggle.
Being in ministry is like having a pitcher that you’re constantly pouring out. I’ve pastored for 40 years and can tell you honestly that I have never been able to expect my parishioners to think about me. It’s not that it doesn’t happen from time to time, but the pastor relationship is more give than take. I’ve had to learn to take care of me. I can’t pour from an empty vessel. I can’t love my wife if I’m empty. I can’t love my children if I’m empty. I can’t love my church if I’m empty. If you don’t know how to fill up your own pitcher, to take responsibility and ownership of your energy and emotions to stay full, you are going to run dry. It’s going to affect your life negatively.
There’s a false narrative, a misunderstanding, in the church world that we’re to lay down our lives and sacrifice everything. While there are instances that will be required, it’s not the daily norm. I hear the scripture, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31). We must love ourselves as much as we love our neighbor and care of them. We must find the balance. We can’t care for our parishioners but not take care of ourselves and our families. We are not doing them a service if we run dry, if we lose our families and even our own lives endlessly pouring out. That’s why I regularly encourage pastors not to allow church life to take everything. Find the balance. Plan a sabbath rest. Lock it into your schedule. It doesn’t have to be 24 hours initially. Start with just working in a morning away doing something that refreshes you. Work your way up from there.
Pastor, water your “grass.” Take care of yourself and take care of your spouse and children. What you water will flourish. If you need practical steps to begin strengthening your marriage, to getting back to feeling like a boyfriend and girlfriend, check out my blog here.