I had a dream the other night that I've been pondering ever since I woke up. The details are sketchy, but here are the basics.
I was in a house that apparently was my home, although it bore no resemblance to my current house. The lighting was poor, and the walls and floor were made of crude pieces of wood. If I'd been self-aware I would have wondered if I'd watched some sort of haunted house program on TV before falling asleep.
In every single doorway of this house, there was a spiderweb that spanned across, making it very difficult to pass into the next room. The webs were huge and intricate. They were masterpieces, really. And the spiders who made them were very active on them, keeping them up as best they could. If I wanted to enter a room, I'd have to duck so as not to disturb the beautiful weavings of my houseguests. And I actually did this. I couldn't tell you why, but I actually did try to avoid breaking down these webs. I held myself to this despite the incredible inconvenience and detriment to effective living that it caused to me.
There came a point in the dream, however, where it dawned on me just how big of a hindrance this practice was. What were these spiders doing in my house to begin with, and why was I treating them with such respect and care? They were keeping me from creating a true home; from moving through my house with ease and comfort.
At that point, I didn't care any more. I tore through those webs with little thought for the spiders' feelings. I faced no backlash from them; they just seemed to disappear. And soon after that, I woke up. The dream ended with a feeling of great satisfaction on my part.
The night of this dream, I'd spent the day at a workshop on anxiety in ministry: its effects on both pastor and congregation, and how to manage it as opposed to how to avoid it. A good portion of it was spent talking about self-differentiation: the idea that you are your own person; another's problems can't or shouldn't be your own. You have your own identity and your own self-care needs, and they shouldn't be enveloped by those of another.
The workshop served as a good reminder. There have been times as a pastor when I feel like I've been on-call for the problems of a few, at my own and others' expense, which I think ultimately wasn't all that helpful to anyone involved. But in these cases, my own needs suffered and it certainly showed. In the instances when I've let the spiders rule, and I've lived hunched-over and careful not to disturb them.