Do you ever feel that way?
I didn't, until I began this counseling ministry nearly 3 years ago. Now I get it.
Being poured out means you are drained from the inside. As a pitcher is emptied of every drop it contained, so my spirit is often emptied of every ounce of strength. It's not a physical weariness, such as anyone feels who has put in a day's work. That is part of it. But the pouring out is an intense spiritual and emotional exhaustion that must be replenished by the Holy Spirit before you can do it again.
A typical day looks something like this: (All names and situations altered to protect my clients.)
7:30--Receive a text from Andy about his broken heart. I'm seeing him tomorrow, but he can't wait.
8:00--Eat breakfast at my computer while sending reminder texts to tomorrow's clients. Check email and Facebook for new counseling requests or messages.
8:05--Begin receiving confirmations and cancellations about tomorrow's schedule.
8:06--Start trying to shuffle client times to accommodate changes so that I won't be left with a hole in my schedule.
8:25--Incoming call from new client. Sounds desperate and I'm concerned. He must have a time after 4:30 due to work. No open slots until next week. Schedule him next week anyway.
8:40--Pray that God makes an opening for this desperate guy sooner.
9:00--Shane, tomorrow's 6:30, calls. An emergency has come up. Can he reschedule for next week?
9:10--Reschedule him and breathe a 'Thank you' to God. I call the new client and let him know an opening has just appeared. Would he like it? He grasps it like a drowning man.
9:30--Drive to the church, praying for each client I will see today, and asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit that I might hear him and obey his voice every moment.
10:00--Welcome first client of the day. Spend two hours hearing Anna's tragic story of childhood molestation, failed marriages, drug addiction, and an attempted suicide. Show her that she is relying on herself to meet her needs and God wants to do that. She's a pastor's daughter, and thought God was one more angry male who couldn't be pleased. She meets a Jesus she never knew and gives him her heart. She eagerly schedules another session next week.
12:00-1:00--Lunch and answer texts that have come in during the last session: Andy sends me an update on his broken heart. My youngest son wonders what's for dinner or is he on his own. My daughter tells me she loves me and she is having car trouble. Another client cancels for tomorrow. A voicemail message from a former client asking if I will see his daughter.
1:00--Welcome Ben and Liz. He's had multiple affairs and she has looked the other way. I ask about his porn addiction, which startles them both. He breaks down and admits it for the first time in his life. I assure them there is nothing God cannot fix. They commit to doing whatever it takes to repair their home and his heart. Begin teaching them about addiction.
3:00--Welcome new client James. Looks like a kook, but I ask God to love him through me anyway. Destructive anger driving everyone from him, including his family. Teach him about offering his rights up to God. Lead him to do that. He leaves with a big smile and a promise to return next week.
4:30--Do a one-hour with Brandon, the 15-year-old. Sullen and unresponsive. His mom made him come. He tells me things I cannot share with her and I struggle with finding the ethical line. By the end he has at least made eye contact and nodded a couple of times. I take that as success, but know he won't be back. Pray I gave him something he can hang on to when he goes home to his dysfunctional family.
5:30--Ten minute consultation with my pastor about a former client who is in trouble again. Get his advice on Brandon's ethical issues as a minor.
5:40--Welcome Jenny. She's one month out of psychiatric lockdown where she got no help at all and is considering giving up on life. Sense demonic presence and help her get rid of them. Then lead her to go back and forgive the 6-year-old Jenny who allowed her step-father to rape her for 8 years. She realizes her self-destruction is an attempt to punish that little girl and she breaks free. Sobbing and at peace, she hugs me and gets tears and snot on my blouse. I don't mind.
7:20--Take a ten-minute break to gulp a 7-Up and a bag of peanuts for supper. Answer a question from a former client passing by in the hallway. His marriage is in trouble again. Do I think more counseling would help? His wife cursed me and walked out last time. I'll have to think about it.
7:30--It's Rachel's third session. I spend an hour and a half contending with her about leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses--a religion that has left her terrified and suicidal. I can't help her if she won't let Jesus in. I rely on the Holy Spirit and my hours of preparation this week studying her religion to find some crack in her defenses. With tears on her face, she sets her jaw and shakes her head. It will be our last session. She walks away, broken and hopeless. This time I cry.
Tomorrow I will go back and do it again. Different faces. Different stories. Each one a life that is indescribably precious to God.
Were I to base my continuing ministry on whether or not I consider myself a success, were I to rely on my own strength, desire, or ability, I would quit. Too much risk. Too much at stake.
But my only goal--and your only goal as you pour yourself out as a drink offering--must be: Lord, was I as obedient to you today as I know how to be?
For a Christian, is there any other question? Is total obedience to him optional?
His answer is enough. He will refill my tank and I will do it again. Because that's what an offering is. It means I let go and it is all His. His people. His victories. His reward.
Are you pouring yourself out as a drink offering before the Lord?