The “Red Rag To A Bull” Issue


It happened again to me this week. 

Somebody raised a “red rag to a bull” issue with me this week.

It is something I have struggled with and fought with myself over the years and I do not know if you would say I have lost or, I have won the battle.

The biggest challenge I face is try to live, what people have described, a balanced life.  I know the theory, work from a place of rest, take a Sabbath, balance demands of work, family and leisure time.  I have tried and tried again but, somehow, I have never managed to get it right (or so I am told).

The end result of this battle has often been a feeling of guilt because, I have got it wrong and a feeling that I have let others down by not being there for them.

When I worked in industry, it was fairly straightforward.  My work ended when I left the factory gates.  I knew what was expected of me.  I had targets to achieve.  I had starting and finishing hours, I knew when tea break and lunch break happened.  Whenever I was not at work, I was involved in family and leisure time.

Of course, ministry isn’t 9 – 5 Monday to Friday.  I have struggled with lines of where work begins and ends.  No targets but, expectations of people of myself and expectations that we believe (mistakenly) that God has placed on us

Life seemed simpler when I had a proper job!


Actually, it wasn’t quite like that.

Life was not simpler then.

I remove my rose tinted glasses


In truth, I took the worries concerns and pressures home with me.  I did not leave colleagues at the factory, I carried my concerns for them and prayed for them.  When I had a disagreement with the boss or, some project had gone wrong, I was kept awake at night worrying and carrying the burden of the day.

You see, I have always struggled to achieve what I am told is the work / life balance.

A little while back now, I made a revolutionary decision.  I gave up trying. 

I accepted that I cannot achieve what other, well meaning, people expect my work / life balance to look like.  I accepted that ministry and actually non ministry “normal life” neither begins nor ends.  I accepted that all of life is integrated.  There is no divide between secular and sacred.

I have a real fondness for some verses in Matthews gospel translated by Eugene Peterson;

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 

Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

(Matthew 11 vs. 28 – 30)


What I am trying to learn is, as Peterson brilliantly puts it, “the unforced rhythm of grace”.  I am trying to discern where God wants me to be.  I am trying to learn to be fully present to God and, in that way, I can live freely and lightly. 

In other words, stop trying and start living God’s way!








3 thoughts on “The “Red Rag To A Bull” Issue

  1. Good article this. Clergy, like royalty!, live a weird life! In some ways we make it so, or expectations dictate. I like the model of local lay leading with Ministers as professional references in an oversight manner. Church ministry is too hierarchical. The servant model is best. Washing feet in the context of imminent death must have amazed the disciples and John 14.1-6,27 is an amazing heritage. Profound. Just be loving and merciful I say! Serve all and use meditation (silent best) as a tool to enable you.

  2. This is so true, the constant balancing act of life. It makes you feel so weary in your soul. You have certainlu captured the struggle well. More important to lay it all down, which we stuggle to do at times. Thanks for sharing.

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