...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Long Is Too Long?

When the football legend of my childhood, Jim Brown, retired from the NFL and the Cleveland Browns at 29, we all were given a prime example of what it means to "go out on top." As stunning as it was, it proved to be, in the end, something that has probably kept Brown's name on top of the record in yards per carry at 5.2. If he had continued for several more years, that number certainly would have diminished.

Football seasons have almost doubled in length since Jim Brown broke in, so many of the records Brown set were bound to be broken. As for as retiring early, Brown is in a small group of Hall of Famers. Most of the greats continued playing a few more seasons and in most cases, with severely diminished skills, even as they tried new teams.

All this, of course, raises the question of the self- chosen limits on our own longevity wherever we serve and ultimately, not only when to move on, but also, when to retire. At what point are we actors and not just reactors? Knowing when to fold 'em is something worth thinking about and not just leaving it to someone else to decide for you. When that happens maybe it has been too long.

The Browns? Life did go on. Leroy Kelly, whose career was less than Brown's (after all, he was the greatest), but who is still enshrined in Canton, Ohio, became the featured back behind his equally talented line (one of which is also at Canton). Kelly was a mainstay for his team the rest of the decade and into the early 1970's.

Most of us will not be the record setters. At the same time, there's a beauty to be able to leave them wanting more, and to know that you gave them everything you had. Life is about taking the next step, in God's love- both for ourselves and the ones we serve.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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