The wider world may perceive priests and/or ministers as those engage in prayerful knee crunching contortion for many long hours of the day and night. In some cases that may well be true. Some may think that professional religious people hide away in book be-decked aeries where we hover in a God-adoring effervescence of self-hypnosis. In some cases that may well be true.
Then there are priests like me.
With the intra-ministerial sojourn behind me, I must confess a behaviour that surprised me, although not others when I spoke with them about it.
The issue at the heart of this is simple - priests can't stop. I spoke with my good mate and former boss about this, and he stated in alarmingly simple terms - we aren't equipped to stop. Upon pondering this and my inability to stop fidgeting when ensconced in a work-free vacuum, I deduced the following: we are built to to occupy an ungoverned and un-bordered working life where we have to be self-disciplined to the highest degree to get 'the job' done. Our work is vague, ever-changing, always wonderful, intoxicating, rewarding, never-ending and our efforts never see this 'job' done. This means that we keep chipping away, day after day. Stopping does not form a helpful habit for those of us for whom the work ethic is set to Level 10.
I can hear your cries from here. Yes, I know we must replenish. Yes, I know we must devote time to be with God (but we get around that one by believing quite sincerely that we are with God in all that we do, so stopping makes no difference). Yes, this is surely the path to burn-out (but apply faith to that and we have us a God who surely won't let us fail, surely). Even family life is another form of keeping going which is why the rapturous mix of priestly potterings and familial forays (in my case) are great.
As I say, many of us priests are not equipped to stop. Perhaps we are like sharks who, if we stop, succumb to mortality. Perhaps we have learned to rest and sleep on the move (you only need hear my sermonising). Perhaps we are on a path to an early grave.