The blog post below is a beautiful devotional given by Dr. Jay Ferguson, Head of School at Grace Community School in Tyler, TX. This message was recently shared at Baylor University’s Academy for Transformational Leadership. We hope that it is an encouragement for school leaders as you exhale from the 2019-20 school year and continue preparations for the 2020-2021 school year. (Dr. Tim Van Soelen)
I am worn out. Spoke last Thursday in DC, preached three services yesterday, still recovering from the school year behind me, I can barely keep my eyes open. I know you feel the same way after a long year.
Maybe it’s because I just blew past 50, but I don’t bounce back like I used to (insert laughter of all 50+-year-olds and bored groans of anyone younger). I am thankful for the energy to do pretty much everything I could before; it just takes me more than one night’s sleep to bounce back. Sometimes I get spiritually wiped out as well. Then I reflect back on Chambers.
Is there any more incredible devotional than My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers? I’ve been through it time and time again, and each time something new captures my attention. Chambers speaks of spiritual exhaustion in a way that resonates with all school leaders.
Chambers notes that spiritual exhaustion never comes through sin, but only through service. It comes from being broken and poured out, serving as bread and wine for others who have not yet learned to feed on God. Before others learn to draw life directly from Jesus, they must do it through you. This service can suck you dry.
Leaders understand Chambers’ words better than anyone. As much as we love the students, teachers, and parents under our care, at times they seem to be little vampires, drawing from us every ounce of spiritual energy we have, not to mention emotional and physical resources. Whether they are very young and not saved, or saved but immature, kids and adults alike, those around us who don’t know Jesus or just met him or are old enough to know better draw their strength from us until they learn to draw directly from the wellspring of Christ. So, we fall into bed, exhausted at the end of a long, hard day, praying for the energy and strength to do it all again . . .
. . . which is the whole point. As Paul told the Romans in Chapter 12, you were made, called, saved, and sanctified by the blood of Christ to be a living sacrifice for those around you, whether for your kids, your spouse, your co-workers, school parents, or your neighbors. Your great purpose is to be used up, drained out, drank dry. Your spiritual reserves aren’t to be hoarded or stored or saved up for a rainy day (it always rains in Texas) or really used for you at all: they are to be exhausted in service to your Lord and to others, every day. All the men I know who get themselves in trouble have either too much time or too much money on their hands, or both. That peril may be true for women, too. It’s not normal for the believer to be well rested all the time. All the men and women I know who are making something of their lives for God’s Kingdom go to bed very, very tired.
Spiritual exhaustion isn’t the end for us, however. Jesus promises new resources to give out again and again, mercies new every morning. John Piper notes that when Jesus says, “[W]hoever drinks of the water I will give him will never thirst” in John 4:14, He doesn’t mean “never thirst” in the sense one’s thirst is destroyed forever. Otherwise, we’d be self-sufficient, a state Christ doesn’t want. Instead, when we drink of the living water, it creates a new spring within us. This spring doesn’t eliminate our need for water, but it is there to give us water every time we thirst. We “never thirst” because our thirst is always immediately quenched– constantly, over and over, as we draw on the Lord.
Whether it’s our kids, our spouse, our neighbors, our co-workers, or school parents drinking from our well, we’ve been saved and sanctified to be emptied every day and to be refilled each night from the spring that always nourishes and never runs dry. We are replenished through the continual knowledge, love, and presence of Christ.
When you return from your conference or vacation and go back home or to the office, and everyone needs you and starts draining you down, stop being dismayed or feeling as if something’s wrong. What’s happening to you is exactly what should be happening. After all, you are the Lord’s servant. Just make sure you’re drinking daily from the wellspring of life, and you’ll never run dry.
Jay Ferguson is the Headmaster of Grace Community School in Tyler. Grace Community School is the largest private school in East Texas, serving 1000 students in grades kindergarten through 12th. He has served in that position since June 2003. Grace’s mission is to assist Christian parents in educating, equipping, and encouraging their children to influence the world for Christ.
Jay attended Highland Park High School in Dallas, Baylor University, and Texas Tech School of Law. He was a practicing attorney in Dallas and Tyler for ten years before joining Grace Community School in 2002 as its Director of Development. After the departure of the school’s long-time Headmaster in summer 2003, Jay became Interim Headmaster. He assumed the full-time Headmaster role in fall 2003. Since that time, Jay has worked to develop a “whole ministry” approach for Grace Community School through a unified relationship between the Upper and Lower Campuses, and a strengthened bond between church and school.
Jay has written extensively on Christian education and training up children in the Lord, and counsels parents on child-raising issues daily. He has authored “A Bowed Head and a Humble Heart: The Head of School’s Pastoral Role”, in Building a Better School, published by Paideia Press, as well as several journal articles. He writes a weekly blog on spiritual, education and parenting issues called The Head and the Heart. He is an adjunct professor at Covenant College in Georgia and at Vanderbilt University, a frequent speaker at national seminars, and he is a regular lecturer for The Forge, Pine Cove Christian Camps’ resident leadership program.
Jay is the recipient of the W.C. Windsor Award for outstanding service in the Tyler community. He was named Smith County Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year. He currently serves on boards of organizations operating at the local, state, national, and international level, including the East Texas Communities Foundation, Texas Private School Association, the Council on Educational Standards and Accountability, and the executive board of the Association of Christian Schools International. He has a heart for mentoring groups of young men and couples.
Jay holds a Bachelors’ Degree from Baylor University, a Juris Doctor from Texas Tech University School of Law, and a Masters’ Degree in Educational Leadership from Covenant College. He is currently a PhD candidate in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University. He and his wife, Ashley, are members of Grace Community Church, and have served over 20 years in small group and children’s ministries. He currently serves as an elder of Grace Community. He and Ashley have three teenage daughters, Emma, Annie, and Ellen. He has taught them to love Jesus and football, in that order, which he considers his gift to future sons-in-law, Lord willing.