My wife, Pam, and I were married at twenty-two, and within five years, I was running my life at unprecedented speeds, even for me. We lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, at the time, where I taught junior- and senior-level English literature at a prep school of several hundred kids called Evangel Christian Academy. That role alone would have meant a full plate for me, but I treated it as a mere side dish, adding to it half a dozen other appetizing things. I was the boys’ Varsity basketball coach. I was the girls’ Varsity basketball coach. I was the boys’ JV basketball coach and also the junior high boys’ basketball coach. I was the high school track and field coach, one of the campus pastors for the school, and the volunteer youth pastor at the church associated with the school.
These combined commitments meant I was gone from six or seven in the morning until ten or eleven at night, teaching, conducting parent-teacher conferences, grading papers, tutoring students, leading practices, driving buses, coaching games, washing uniforms in the locker room’s laundry facility, and more. During that season of life, the greatest compliment you could have paid me was, “Wow. You’re always so busy.” To me, busyness equaled movement, and movement was necessary for me to get ahead.
I had exactly one day off a week, which was Saturday. But even then, I refused to rest.
The pastor of the church where I served as volunteer youth pastor was a man twenty years my senior, a man I idolized to such an extent that it bordered on unhealthy. I wanted to be this guy. He was (and remains) the best preacher I’ve ever heard and was an all-around amazing man. One weekend he approached me and invited me to have breakfast with him the following morning. I was blown away that he would even talk to me, let alone want to spend time one-on-one. I said yes immediately.
When that pastor and I met for breakfast there at the diner on Kings Highway, he said, “Brady, Governor Roemer would like our church to participate in fighting crime, and one of the ways I’d like to do that is by starting an adopt-a-block program. I’d like you to administer the entire program, to organize whatever needs organizing and see it all through to the end.”
So, he extended the offer, and of course I accepted. He needed me, after all. How I needed to be needed. This was an easy yes.
House in Flames
For four straight years I kept this pace, never stopping even to blink. In fact, whenever it seemed I might be able to slow my pace a bit, I let myself get roped into further busyness, which caused further strife at home. On one occasion, during those years when I had been coaching all those teams, driving the athletic bus, washing the uniforms—the whole bit—the day came when basketball season was over, meaning I could finally catch a break. The day after the season ended, the school’s athletic director called all of us head coaches into his office and explained he had fired the track coach that morning—for good reason, according to him. Baseball season was in full swing, so the baseball coach couldn’t help out. Spring football had already begun, so the football coach couldn’t help out. Which left me. All eyes cut to me. “Brady,” the A.D. said, “I need you to coach track. End of discussion.”
In a split second, my long-awaited dream of being home at three-thirty or four every afternoon vanished into thin air.
I informed Pam of my new track-coach role, and not long after that I came home to find that my wife of five years had up and packed her bags. I think her exact explanation was: “If I’m going to be a single woman, I’d rather be single at my parents’ house.”
Admittedly, it wasn’t my best day.
I was talking with a friend recently about this dark season from my past, and she asked, “Weren’t there warning shots fired along the way?” (Translation: “Didn’t you know what an idiot you were being?”)
Yeah, I suppose the answer is yes. Which proves it actually is possible to be too busy putting out other fires to notice your own house is going up in flames. My lovely and devoted wife would ask if we could go on a date along the way, but who had time for that? A clear example comes to mind. Two weeks prior, on a rare Saturday when for some reason we didn’t have parish ministry, Pam looked forward to spending time as a couple, just the two of us, with nothing on the agenda for an entire day. But that wasn’t meant to be. I had been invited by a local soup kitchen to come speak to their staff and guests and, since I didn’t have anything other obligations that day, I jumped at the opportunity to serve. It actually never occurred to me to invite Pam on a date or to plan “together” time for the day. It also never occurred to me to tell her of my soup-kitchen plans.
That Saturday morning, I got dressed, grabbed a piece of toast, and headed for the door. I quickly pecked Pam on the cheek as I mumbled a bread-crumbed goodbye, which is when I noticed there was no return greeting from my wife. There was nothing but an icy stare. You know that stare, the one that tells you that a time bomb is about to go off? It’s not a good look to get. Wordlessly, she conveyed her furor over my making plans without her for the day, and in response I wordlessly conveyed my furor over her failing to understand how much my ministry mattered to me. When the icy stare did give way to actual words, Pam said, “You’re not building God’s kingdom. You’re building the empire called Brady Boyd!”
The Trouble with Seeking My Own Glory
Of course my wife was right all along, despite my inability to see the cold, hard truth for what it was. In hindsight, I see that the problem for me back then was I was seeing so much fruit from all my hard work. I was saving the city, right? I was showing up, working hard, being celebrated left and right: “Brady, tell us another story!” my pastor would say to me in front of the church’s eager Sunday-morning congregation. “Come up here and tell us what you saw happen yesterday!” And so I would.
I was in my glory. Which should have been my first clue that something was amiss. It was my glory I was seeking. And it was my glory that I gained. But nothing seemed amiss back then. I kept gulping down that sweet-tasting fruit, the fruit of all those harried weeks, followed by all those not-quite-relaxing days off.
Unfortunately, the taste didn’t sit so well with Pam, and she thought it best to let me know. To her, I was a dead man walking. She’d already begun preparing my last meal.
I walked into our tiny house that night, saw Pam—disillusioned, angry, d-o-n-e done—and her packed bags and experienced the lead weight in the bottom of your stomach that tells you all is not right in your world.
The Pam I’d married five years prior was gentle, calm, a lamb not a lion, a peacemaker not prone to provoke. But here, now, with those packed bags signaling her seriousness, I saw another woman emerge, a woman who refused to be taken for granted, a woman who would rather be single than to be married and do life all alone. I may not have been super-smart, but some signals even a dumb jock can’t miss. “Pam,” I said, my voice low and my words slow, “if you will stay here tonight—if you will agree not to leave tonight—I will walk in tomorrow and resign.”
The red rims around her eyes told me she’d been crying all afternoon. “No, you won’t,” she challenged. “You won’t.”
I asked for twenty-four hours, to prove that I’d make good on my plan. And by that time the following day, I had resigned every last role. I told the principal that I would finish out the school year but that at that point, I was done. She was floored. As was everyone else who discovered what I’d done. I had taken our girls’ team to the state semis, where they played in front of five thousand people and had been voted Coach of the Year for our district.
Suffice it to say, I was invested in my endeavors. And then one day I quit. “How can you not want to coach anymore?” people would say, as though I’d decided to stop being human. In my heart, I knew the answer: I did want to keep coaching. I just wanted to keep being married more.
Excerpted from Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul by Brady Boyd. For reprint permission, contact Pamela McClure, email@example.com.
Brady Boyd is the Senior Pastor of New Life Church (10,000 members) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He’s married to his college sweetheart, Pam, and is dad to two teenagers: Abram and Callie. Brady has penned four books, and his latest is Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul. Brady cheers for the Cowboys while living in Broncos Country, and loses his voice most Autumn Saturdays after yelling for the LSU Tigers. He likes to hunt, fish, play golf and spend lots of time with his family.
Publication date: October 16, 2014