The Second Marathon: A Thought For Pastors On Walking the New Normal

I'm hearing this refrain in every corner of my pastor world.

Today felt like a day to name it out loud.

Pastors are tired. On a soul level.

It's tempting to think we can solve it with a few days off. But we know we can't.

This is bigger than individuals.

This is systemic.

The oppressive thing about capitalism and consumerism (and white supremacy culture, for that matter), is our utter inability to listen to our need to rest. More on that in a moment.

But first, my brother runs marathons. It's amazing to see the training and preparation that goes into this accomplishment. I ran 20 minutes without stopping a year or two ago and it felt like I crossed the finish line at the Olympics! I cannot even imagine what it feels like to run for 26.2 miles and feel absolutely depleted at the end.

Well, maybe my soul does know that feeling. Maybe yours does too. We just ran a marathon.

We closed our doors to in-person worship. We figured out online worship. Maybe. Kind of.

We received email after email from frustrated congregants.

We felt the brunt of unprocessed grief in our communities.

We tried to continue as many ministries as we could sustain.

We dreamed up new ones.

We crashed and burned.

We wondered if giving would continue.

We became video chat professionals.

We spent hours looking at blank screens summoning sermons to write themselves.

We ached with isolation.

We spoke hope and grace and possibility.

We questioned our call to ministry.

We agonized over the safest ways to return to in-person gatherings.

We took a few days off here and there, trying to find solid ground to rest on.

We smiled on camera as if we could stir our hearts to life with our own pleading.

We received grace and stunning kindness from people in our communities.

We watched colleagues look like they had it together. But we guessed they didn't either.

Then we opened our doors to in-person worship again.

We crossed the finish line! We made it! We did a hard thing! Then...

Instead of collapsing at the finish line in a heap.

Instead of drinking water.

Instead of resting our aching bodies.

Something else happened.

An official-looking race organizer slapped another number on our back

and pushed us toward another starting line that mysteriously appeared.

Wait. What?

A second marathon? Right now?

We look down at our blistered aching feet, our hopeful but exhausted heart, our overwhelmed but determined mind, and we take a step forward into life as a gathered community once again.

Why? Because our world doesn't know how to stop. (Unless a global virus shuts down the world.) White supremacy pushes and coerces and manipulates into productivity and results.

Consumerism causes people to demand their preferences and tired pastors oblige.

Capitalism relies on resisting rest and driving our bodies for the bottom line.

These forces celebrate when we ignore what our souls whisper.

I don't have a magic next step for my community of pastor-friends today.

Six-month sabbaticals for all would be a good place to start.

But I do know this.

As the gears come to life in our faith communities, we have the opportunity to tell the truth, to slow the pace, and question everything as we enter the new normal.

Yes, our second marathon has begun. Ready or not.

Problem is, our bodies are still recovering from the first marathon.

Maybe the answer is to stop running the second race.

What if we looked at each other and gently nodded.

Slowed our forced jog.

And started walking.


What if we walked our second marathon?

Side by side. No racing. No competing with anything or anyone.

Resting when it's time to rest.

Saying yes to a new idea when it glistens with possibility.

Saying no when something feels too heavy.

Asking new questions in places we assumed the old answer.

Giving others permission to rest because we choose rest.

Questioning the speed at which we live and move.

Loving our people with beautiful boundaries in place.

Taking a nap.

Going to therapy and spiritual direction because we're humans too.

Breathing deeply of God's grace and love and restoration.

Maybe this is how we disrupt the deeply engrained oppressive realities of our world. We choose to walk.


Here's to the second marathon. I'm with you, friends.

I'll be over in the slow walkers crew that laughs and takes a lot of breaks.

Want to join me?

I imagine Love will surprise us again.

Grace upon grace.