I preached on rest, rhythm and burnout this past weekend at church and thought I’d share some more thoughts on it this week for my blog readers. You can listen to my sermon here if you missed it.
I remember sitting at conferences when I was in college and seminary and hearing pastors and leaders talk about hitting a wall, being burned out, fatigued and thought, “Wimps.”
Then it happened.
Burning out is like getting into debt or gaining weight. Which means, it doesn’t happen in one day, it doesn’t even seem to come from one place. It is the continuous nature of life. One thing on top of the other, on top of the other. In Adrenal Fatigue, Dr. James Wilson says that all of us do things that energize us and rob energy from us. Burn out and fatigue comes when we do more that robs us of energy than gives energy.
For me, I began my slow crawl into fatigue back in January of 2011. Revolution was growing, but a ton of things were happening behind the scenes. We were in the process of disciplining an elder, which took hundreds of hours in meetings, emails and phone calls. We were merging with another church in Tucson, which meant I would preach on Saturday night and then drive across town on Sunday night, preaching or getting to know this new church. Over the summer, we were training missional community leaders in our home twice a week. All of this began to build and build. The reality is, this is my job. The problem is that I’m an introvert and being around people for an extended period of time tends to drain me, not energize me. I didn’t take account for this reality.
One of the things that I learned recently, or at least jumped out to me in reading through Genesis is that Adam was created at the end of the 6th day. The next day God rested. I think it’s fascinating that God did everything and then created Adam. That Adam’s first day was a day of rest. This communicates so much. It communicates a rhythm that we should live in. Our pursuit of balance, while nice is not biblical (I’ll unpack that later). It also communicates to Adam his importance, or lack thereof, and God’s power and sovereignty.
Simply put, the longer you and I continue living at a fast pace, going, going and going. Doing more than we can handle. Not resting. Not recharging, we will hit a wall. For me, this wall happened in January, 2012.
In researching what happened to me and talking with other leaders, one of the common misconceptions is that burnout simply comes from working too much. While that can easily happen, burnout tends to come from a combination of things. For me, it was the stress of working, not taking a day off, the emotional strain of trying to restore a close friend back to ministry that ended painfully and then not dealing with those emotions, followed by more and more stress and strain physically. All of this continued to build until one day I couldn’t take it any more.
I’ll share tomorrow how you know this is happening to you.