That’s partly because I stayed up close to midnight to watch Arsenal’s inevitable demise to the liquid machine of Barcelona’s sublime brand of football. But it’s not the real reason. I’ll get to bed a bit earlier than usual this evening to make up for it, and all will be well. No, I’m tired in other ways. In no particular order …
I’m tired because I’m a new parent. We’ve been fostering 13-year old Mr K and 7-year old Miss J for around 2 months now. We’re told it takes 6 months-1 year to reorient life to a new reality like this. We’re doing quite well, all told, but we’re making plenty of mistakes and learning plenty of new things. Learning and making mistakes is tiring. The earlier mornings are tiring. The dealing with the overflow of past traumas is tiring.
I’m tired because I lead a church, and it’s a tiring job. It’s never done, you never stop thinking about it, there’s always more I could do and I work more hours than most people know or believe – and I’m pretty good at protecting my time off.
I’m tired because I don’t live in the country of my birth. I’ve lived in South Africa for 6 years now, and it’s home – in as much as anywhere is ever home in my line of work. But I’d lived in the UK for 36 years before that; it’s how I was born and raised, the air I breathed. Living in a place that’s not that of your birth is always going to be a little destabilising; and especially so in South Africa, where as leader there’s the swirls and eddies of the country’s history and present threatening to sweep you away and grab your attention. The issues are so complex, so intertwined with one another, so hard to get a handle on. Add on that something is coming to the boil here, now; violent unrest is coming the surface once again. anger is surfacing and it needs to be faced, understood, listened to and acted in response to.
I’m tired by all these things, because I don’t do any of them as well as I’d like to. I try hard as a parent, but I fail daily. I try hard as a church leader, but I fail daily. I try hard to understand South Africa, but I fail daily. There’s issues that demand attention, articles to read, conversations to have – none of which I seem able to get to, all of which tire me out by their presence in my inbox, mind, newsfeed, book pile.
Then some words spoken came back to me. My therapist said to me, as I was becoming a foster father, that I’ll feel the pressure to be a perfect Dad. But relax, he said. You can’t be perfect – all you need to be is good enough.
Good enough. I can do that. Jesus calls it grace. I can be a good enough Dad; He’ll do the rest. I can be a good enough leader; He’ll make up the difference. I can be a good enough resident of a convulsing South Africa; He’ll bring the perfection. He’ll call people who’ll give to my foster kids what I can’t; He’ll raise up people within my church, and other churches, who’ll do and be what I and my church can’t do or be; He’ll bring forward people dealing with each issue and conversation that really matters. I just need to be good enough, to be obedient with what I’ve been given, to do what I can and not what I can’t.
It’s called grace, and it will mean I can sleep.