One simple practice will help you maintain your mental health and joy during the COVID-19 days.
I read a Gallup survey that said 14% say they are "happy" right now. Another 11% rate themselves as "somewhat happy." This is the lowest level of happiness ever recorded by the folks at Gallup.
As a church leader, your No. 1 job is to lead yourself. If you're not joyful and healthy, you'll have a hard time helping others.
To perform at my highest level, I need to make sure my emotional, spiritual and physical "tanks" are as close to full as possible.
What Is a Tank-Filling List?
Every December, during my annual personal review, I update what I call "My Tank-Filling List." I write down the top 10-20 things that fill my emotional tank. Then, I write down the three to four things that drain my emotional tank.
Ministry, by nature, is draining. Jesus regularly recharged through prayer, retreats and walking, to make sure He was at His best. We must too.
I use my list to remind me of what I must do to keep in good emotional shape. When I'm feeling drained, I practice a few of my tank-fillers to fill me back up.
This year's list included 17 tank-fillers. Things like:
—Spending time with God.
—Feeling in shape.
—Teaching in new settings.
—Meeting new people.
I reviewed my list this morning. Because of the pandemic, I am not able to practice 10 of my 17 tank-filling habits. This explains why I'm one of those in Gallop's "somewhat happy," category. My tank may not be empty, but it's definitely depleted.
How to Adjust a Tank-Filling List during the Pandemic
What am I doing about this?
1. I'm updating my list. I added five new fillers I can practice during these coronavirus days. These might not be as potent for me as my top 17. But adding even a little is better than continuing on the path of depletion.
2. I've devised plans to overcome the obstacles that have been keeping me from practicing three of my tank-fillers.
In Luke 8, Jesus was on His way to heal Jairus' daughter. A woman in need of healing sneaked up behind Him and touched the wing of His cloak, which instantly healed her.
Jesus immediately knew what had happened. "Someone touched Me, for I perceive that power has gone out from Me" (Luke 8:46b). Though He had done nothing active, power had gone out of Him.
Power flows in every act of ministry; which means that long-term ministry requires regular replenishment on your part.
How to Make Your Own Tank Filling List
If you've never thought about what fills you up, what causes you to get up every morning saying, "I'm looking forward to serving the Lord today," this might be a good time to create a tank-filling list.
Start with a blank piece of paper. Write "What energizes me?" at the top, then jot down as many things as you think of that bring you joy, give you delight or cause you to want to do more.
Usually, I narrow my list so that I'm concentrating on doing the most efficient joy-bringers. But most of us aren't able to do the things at the very top of our lists right now. So make your list longer.
If "going to a concert" ranks first on your list, you might have to substitute four or five lesser things to compensate.
Once you've got a list of 15-25 items, arrange them in order, starting with the most refreshing.
Now, put that list somewhere you can see it, and start practicing. What will you do today to fill your tank just a little bit? What will you do tomorrow? Next week?
One of the items on my list is "travel that includes history or exposure to new things." I can't do that now. But I've scheduled a trip to trace Paul's journeys in Acts 13-18 for next spring. Having it out there gives me something to look forward to.
It's important to do things that bring you joy. The fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). Your joy will bring joy to others. In order to bring it, you've got to have it.
Your tank might not get topped off for a few more months yet. But push it above half-full.
"The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10c). Now go get some!
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