“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” ~ Psalm 118:8
My name is Marcus Zill and I am a recovering adrenaline addict.
I am a junkie. My drug of choice has not been something I inject in my arm with a syringe, and I have never been sky-diving or base-jumping. My addiction is not something that I have even cultivated in the shadows, but in broad daylight. It is actually work-related.
I have lived my professional life thinking that I could power through anything that needed to be done, rarely taking days off, taking on the weight of any work projects that I was passionate about, and attempting to will them to either existence or completion.
I care intensely about the young people of the church. I didn’t even go to seminary to become a pastor; I wanted to be a “campus” pastor! I had that privilege for nearly 16 years, and along the way I took on all sorts of other projects and helped found a youth organization called Higher Things. I am now privileged to give support to everyone in campus ministry through LCMS U in ways that I never dreamed possible. However, I have learned only a year into my new position that I simply cannot put things on my shoulders as I have done before. Instead, I find myself in great need of your prayer and support. I have been humbled.
In short, I have very high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the like. While this is no surprise as I have been overweight for some time, it all came clearly into focus for me when I rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night about two weeks ago after returning home from a long stretch of campus travel.
While it does not appear that I had a stroke or any such thing, I am getting thoroughly tested to gain a complete picture of my health. I am on blood pressure meds for the first time and that has stabilized things (though it’s still certainly not ideal), and I am taking some meds to help with anxiety. Yes, anxiety. I wasn’t expecting that one. Me? Anxious? I’m the one that others have referred to as “a tornado of energy.” How can I be filled with anxiety?
I guess I am apparently a fairly anxious person, though it doesn’t always manifest itself outwardly, and simultaneously a complete adrenaline junkie! I have always been willing to put the weight of the world on my shoulders to accomplish something big, bold, and audacious that I’m passionate about, but I have also been willing to sacrifice my health to accomplish it.
I am good under pressure. I thrive under pressure. I have even sometimes created pressure so that I might thrive under it. While this trait is certainly helpful at times, it isn’t exactly healthy. The result is that I have carried a lot of weight (both figuratively and literally) over the years, and it has caught up with me. I’m 49, and I was creeping into danger zone territory any way that you look at it.
I suspect that many of us in church work are the same way to some degree. We are motivated to share the Gospel, reach the lost, and support this or that cause, but yet in doing so we end up failing to take care of ourselves. While I have always been motivated by my deep love for the Gospel and my passion for college students, I have also, among many things, failed at the first commandment. I have far too many times placed my confidence in myself and failed to fear, love and trust in God in all things, even “good” things.
Since I left college I have lived my own life like a college sophomore soldiering through finals, getting little sleep, and powering myself by Red Bull and Doritos! I have stormed many castles and raised many flags, but I have crashed and burned and then repeated this cycle far more times than I’d like to admit. I have not been a very good role model to others, especially the college students I love dearly, in terms of how I have cared, or not cared, for myself.
The bottom line is that I have some serious lifestyle changes to make and by the grace of God, I intend to make them, and have already begun to do so.
- Preventive care is a good thing. I am no longer “underutilizing” my health care plan.
- I am being honest with myself. Many times, I have turned to food when I am stressed, or medicated myself with caffeine, rather than turn to God. My idols have had idols.
- I need to lose weight and make healthier diet choices. I weigh 325 pounds. I need to lose 100-125 pounds and that won’t happen overnight and without support and discipline (I have lost nearly 12 pounds since my trip to the ER).
- I am re-cultivating my devotional and study life, which honestly suffered during the “surge” of leaving Laradise and the transition to my new position.
- In the short term, I simply need some rest. I have cleared out my travel schedule through at least mid November. I am still working, but doing so more slowly and wisely.
- I need the discipline of a good consistent routine. I have been disciplined at living on the edge. I need to become disciplined at NOT living on the edge.
- It is helpful to share this in this forum, not only because I have been in need of blogging (though future posts will be shorter and less personal), but also so that I can share the condition I find myself in with everyone at once.
While I still don’t know precisely what all happened and why, I do know one thing – adrenaline not only isn’t enough, it is something that I must learn to live with only when necessary. It is certainly not something to be harnessed. I also know that God has been gracious to me. He sent His Son to suffer and die not only for those I love to serve, but also for me. He has baptized me into His Son’s holy name and has promised to still take care of me too. And He will.
He has also seen fit to give me a crucial wake up call to take my health seriously once and for all. While I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to get to this point, in the proverbial words of Robert Farrar Capon, “A tardy dose of discipline is better than none.”
I am also blessed to have a supportive family, a loving health conscious wife, a wonderful church and pastor, a terrific boss and colleagues in the Office of National Mission, and the love of so many who share my passion for the young people of the church. Thanks to all of you in campus ministry for what you do, tirelessly and passionately, for our college students. But please, please take care of yourselves too.
Of course, the most beautiful surprise in all of this is the fresh reminder that it isn’t about me. It never was, of course. And it never will be. Thanks be to God! It is also a gift to fully realize that the best thing I can do for myself, my family, and my deep passion to support and develop campus ministry to the best of my ability going forward, is to look after my overall health. This plan necessarily starts and ends with the realization of what I have always preached to others – it isn’t about me. It is always, always about Jesus!
Please don’t misunderstand. While I’m tamping things down a bit for a while, I’m still at work, still as passionate as ever about campus ministry, and still looking forward to what is in store for LCMS U. I am just forcing myself to work a tad bit more slowly and wisely while I refresh and reboot. I am also pushing back a few things and punting a few things, so that I can get my physical, mental, and yes, spiritual house, in order.
Please pray that God would grant me healing, the alleviation of any anxiety, and the necessary balance and discipline going forward. Hopefully, according to God’s good and gracious will, I will be in a much better place very soon, and I will be able to be of even greater support to all of you in campus ministry for many, many years to come!
Yes, I am Marcus Zill. I am a recovering adrenaline addict.
I am a sinner. But God loves me, and He loves you too. Cherish your life. Take care of your health. Remember your baptism. Receive Christ’s Gifts, both audible and edible. Be still, and know that God is God, and you are not.
Adrenaline isn’t enough. Jesus IS.
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” ~ Psalm 118:8