Note: This is the second post in a three part series on Burnout. The first article was Tired of Burnout.
As Christians, what we do in life is driven by our calling or by our compulsions. Usually, it is a combination of both! We believe and sense God has gifted and called us to fulfill the many responsibilities we have in our family and vocation. We do our best but often find Jesus’ promise of an “easy yoke and light burden” to be elusive. We are desperately fatigued. Why?
As noted in Tired of Burnout there are seasons and situations in life which truly are exhausting (e.g. dealing with a severe illness). But sometimes we find ourselves deeply tired because we have tried to do more than we should over a long period of time. We have been under the control of our compulsions more than God’s calling. In our attempt to deal with exaggerated fear or shame or guilt we have come to the end of our rope.
A compulsive work ethic is one of the ways exaggerated shame or fear or guilt manifests itself. Exaggerated emotions drive compulsive behaviors which drain our souls of energy. When we do that long enough our compulsions become self-fulfilling prophecies (e.g. we are so exhausted that we are now REALLY afraid!).
Whatever else you’re doing, your state of soul matters more. In other words, the most important thing you bring to life is your transformed and transforming presence. What you are doing is not as important as who you are and who you are becoming.
The nature of your presence and character rests on your actual experience of communion with Christ. IT IS THE REAL AND REPEATED EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE WHICH TRANSFORMS YOUR PRESENCE. It is the conscious presence of Christ which anchors you in your calling and frees you from your compulsions.
How then do we open ourselves to the presence of Christ? Two disciplines are critical.
Retreat means having space in your schedule where you pull away from the fray of the battle. We must develop a rhythm of time and space where we intentionally step back from the demands of life so that we can consciously step into the loving presence of our Lord. Even Jesus was willing to live with the limits of His humanity. Yet He still was able to say at the end, “I have finished the work You (my Father) gave me to do.”
When you step back you are seeking to cultivate two things—rest and reflection. In other words, there are times when you are intentionally taking a physical and emotional break. And there are also times when you are intentionally reflecting on your life.
If at all possible make your rhythm of retreat daily, weekly, and monthly. During the day, step away. Start in the morning with a few minutes spent before Christ in quietness. Do it again in the middle of the day by taking a short break (if you are driving, turn the radio off and be aware of the presence of Christ). A weekly retreat means at least one day where you spend a couple hours to “waste” time having fun at something you enjoy doing knowing God delights in your creativity and rest. A monthly time of retreat may mean a few hours spent in solitude and silence.
Without a rhythm of retreat you will end up dangerously tired and at risk for burnout because the soul cannot sustain constant demands, tensions, and pressures of life without it.
In additon to retreat we must attend to the discipline of the recalibration of our souls. My way of being a “me” needs to shift. My habitual ways of feeling, thinking, evaluating, and behaving must be recalibrated if I am going to avoid being driven by my compulsions. My soul must be changed in its approach to life so that my calling is the driver more than my compulsions.
When we speak of recalibration we need to know two things. First, WHAT to recalibrate. Second, HOW to recalibrate.
In part three of the series on Burnout we will speak to these issues.