Keeping the Faith: For overachievers everywhere

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 11:31 AM.

Scientists have a name for it: Ergomania. It is a word composed of two Latin roots. “Ergo,” meaning work, and “mania,” which means passion. Ergomania, thusly, is a “passion for work.” In contemporary society we use a different term for an individual suffering from this condition: The “workaholic.” The condition is not limited to corporate offices or the manufacturing plant. It thrives in houses of worship.

It’s been my experience that we religious people work very hard, often killing ourselves for God, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Why? I believe it is because we do not believe that God is love or that he really loves us. Most of us are working like slaves to earn an ambivalent God’s love, unaware, it seems, that his love is already ours in abundance. That God would take us just as we are, that he loves us just as we are, is too much for us to accept.

And why should we believe it? Our parents never accepted us without conditions. This merciless culture is constantly judging us, and our level of success. Our spouse left us for someone younger, better looking, or richer. Our coach tells us we’ll never be good enough to make the team, and yes the church gets in on it too.

When we were young, it was all about perfect attendance pins, achievements, and all those little check marks on our weekly reporting at Sunday school. We learned quickly that we could measure a person’s spirituality, thus their worth as an individual, by how many gold stars they had beside their name.

When we got older, the exercise continued, now measured by different gold stars. Volunteer, serve, give, teach Bible study class, lead the choir, chaperone the youth group, chair the Stewardship Committee; and the leadership and congregation will sing your praises. But the second you relent, the moment you acknowledge your exhaustion, that you just can’t keep up, then that familiar conditional approval will rear its ugly head.

Conditioned like this, when Jesus shows up and says, “If you’re tired I can help with a little grace,” we just can’t believe it. Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus said when he showed up! With words that make most type-A congregational leaders cringe, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”



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