I'm Really Embarrassed.

Photo by Junxiang Wang on Unsplash

I was really embarrassed when I started writing this. 

I’ve always thought that “burnout” is something that happened to old people. People who had done their time. Or people who didn’t have a loving community to rely on, people who let their faith walk through sheer neglect turn into just a faith talk.

I thought burnout was a code word for tired and bored — a code word for “not cut out for this”. 

Over the past few months I’ve been battling against something I didn’t have a name for. I felt lonely, sad, angry, hopeless. I described it to a friend as a slump. “This just isn’t me — I’m not like this. Why can't I shake it off this time?” Kept running over and over in my head. I thought I just needed to add fifteen more minutes to my morning devotions. I thought I needed to keep another log book and try extra hard to make sure my time spent with God was “more meaningful”. I thought “if I keep trying, get rid of this or that distraction, distance myself, yet speak more, pray more, love harder, be softer, I'll eventually get over this.” 

It wasn't until I had probably one of the biggest break downs I've ever had that I realized, gurl. You need to stop

There's nothing quite like sobbing ugly, slobbery, Kim Kardashian tears and screeching; "I can't do it. I'm so tired. I don't know what the point of it all is. I don't want to live like this anymore." into your mom's lap to signal you're looking right into the pit of a no-good, burnt out valley. And it's nothing new.

I ran myself ragged at school. I came home and was trying to do the same thing. Sign up for this event, speak here, lead that, volunteer with this. Take that 3am phone call. Mediate that conversation. Write a blog post a week and work a full time job. Date enough so you look like you're trying but not too much so you don't look desperate. I was trying to have the wisdom and poise of a sixty five year old, be in the stable life position of a forty-five year old, and look like a twenty five year old, athletic, "oh I just woke up like this" beauty queen. Guys, I'm barely even twenty. In many ways I'm still a kid. (And let me tell ya, I did not wake up like this.)

What I really needed was to take my own advice. Stop for a second. Breath. (Funny how the wisdom we give often times is the wisdom we need preached most to our own hearts?) I didn't need to be more spiritual or read another book. I needed to take a dang nap and turn my phone off.

I could turn around and blame society. Social media. Church culture. God. I could blame myself for not being the best. For not "looking high enough heavenward" like all the popular evangelical blogs tell me to do.

But to be truthful - the enemy was none of those things. The enemy was not my ineptitude. The enemy was me, Beth, desperately trying to be mine and everybody else's saviour. It's the crack cocaine of serving, isn't it? Doing everything with excellence was my personal mantra. Show no weakness. Show no fear. Be salt and light and everything else in between, and look dang good while doing it. Looking back I can see all the signs of burnout as clear as the blue sky above me. 

So today I'm breaking the cycle. I'm learning to say no graciously. It's going to be really hard - and I don't know if there will come a time when I find myself here again down the road. Serendipitously, A babe friend of mine sent me this quote right when I needed it, and if you're reading this like Preaaach Beth! Saaaaame! maybe you need to hear it too;

"Learning how to say no with kindness to the things not meant for us, yields the freedom to say yes to the things we are called to carry."

If you are facing burnout, I'm right with you. The signs are there. You can probably feel it in the pit of your stomach. So let's rest - like really rest - and make it a part of our ministry rhythm. My resting currently looks like sleeping under the stars and drinking purified river water. Yours could be spending time with your family, building something, or just lying on the couch doing diddly squat for a day. Let's humble ourselves - swallow that pride and shame - and dare to admit that we aren't perfect and never will be. Tell each other that it's okay, so we can be our healthiest and get back to the point of it all - to wholeheartedly serve others and to love God. 

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