Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Extreme Fatigue

Matt Carpenter plays third base for the St. Louis Cardinals and he's had a stellar start to the season. He's currently ranked no worse than 16th in all of the traditional batting statistics. (.333/.403/.620)

On a team that was leading Major League Baseball in wins, USA Today described Carpenter as "not only the catalyst, but the heartbeat of the Cardinals, who are off to their best start, 21-7, in franchise history."

More than just a a great player, Carpenter describes himself on his Twitter profile (@MattCarp13) as "Christian, Husband, STL Cardinal, Elkins Knight and TCU Horned Frog 4 life!"

Everything seems cheery for this All-Star on the team that played in last year's National League finals and looks like making a great run at it again this year.  Then suddenly things changed.

Towards the end of a game against the Pirates on 3 May, Carpenter felt an accelerated heart rate and dehydration and was subbed out of the game. He played the next three games against the Cubs but was only 1 for 12 at the plate.

Carpenter was diagnosed with "extreme fatigue" and left behind in St Louis while the team traveled to Pittsburgh.

Carpenter is known for his work ethic. He routinely gets to the stadium 7 hours before the first pitch. A quote in the USA Today article reveals his mindset, "I guess I never thought I was very good. So I thought I had to really work to achieve. I always thought someone was going to come take my job, or that today is my last game."

His manager, Mike Matheny, observed that this case of extreme fatigue came toward the end of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, "[Matheny] described how Carpenter has been "pushing, pushing, pushing" and even when given Sunday off Carpenter went through a running program. Matheny also said that Carpenter has told the team he's had trouble sleeping."

It might surprise most church members to learn that burnout is a real threat for most preachers. In fact there's a website dedicated to it. One statistic from that site says that "40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations."

So think about your ministers, their wives, elders and other ministry leaders in your church. Are they encouraged to rest? You can play a vital role in your church's health by encouraging leaders to pace themselves and allow others to take on some of their workload.

But ministers aren't the only people in the church who battle burnout. How often do you greet someone at church, ask them how they are, and they respond, "Busy"? Have you ever had someone answer that question by saying, "I'm well rested and content"?

Sadly, many of us forget that God built a day of rest into Creation. Think about it. If God needed a day of rest after 6 days of work, who are we to think we can work and run incessantly?

I hope that Matt Carpenter doesn't have a health concern more serious than Extreme Fatigue. I also hope that Christians don't somehow think that Extreme Fatigue comes with the territory of living for Christ. That's a lie our culture feeds us. Burnout is as great an enemy as Laziness. Unfortunately our culture only condemns one.

Laziness is a vice. Burnout is a weakness. And "busyness" is productivity.

If Christians buy into this worldview we'll find ourselves battling Extreme Fatigue. We'll be too exhausted to give God our best. And before long we'll find ourselves seeking God's approval through our activity. We  might even view our fatigue as a sign that we're "giving our all" for God.

Matt Carpenter reminds us when we're running on empty we can't help our team the way they need us to. We'll be sitting on the sidelines recovering instead of participating.

Whether an athlete or a Christian, we all need to integrate rest into our lives. God made us this way.

A friend of mine recently shared some thoughts along a similar line that I encourage you to read HERE.   Also, if you're looking for a longer discussion on the topic of Sabbath, I've written more HERE.

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