When I was in high school, my dad overheard me telling someone that I got “yelled at”. He later corrected me, because, as he pointed out, he didn’t actually raise his voice at me. I explained to my dad, a school teacher, that being “yelled at” only meant I got in trouble. The phrase had transitioned from the literal meaning of his generation to a very loose figurative form of speech that now meant everything from getting caught breaking the rules to being asked (even kindly) to clean my room.
“Burn out” has met a similar fate. Recently it has been used without restraint in almost every context I find myself… online, on television, in print, among friends, and at church. When in doubt, call it burn out. Of course we all agree that no one wants to burn out, nor do I wish anyone to burn out. I personally want to avoid it at all costs.. but what exactly are we referring to? It can mean anything from me being burnt out from typing at 3am to its most true form found in those who are emotionally wrecked, struggling to find purpose in life and lacking strength to carry on… when I think of the latter, my little 3am blog post seems less like burn out and more like cop out.
So it goes with all of my attempts thus far to claim burn out in serving God… every time my fire seems to go out it’s brought back to life by what I’ve seen in the world and read in the Word. I remember the smiles of the poor in Nicaragua, the Sunday School teacher serving faithfully every week for years, and the homeless orphans of Romania inviting me into their “home” in the sewer. I read about the disciples asking Jesus, “Increase our faith” and about Paul being “pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” My capacity to give and serve increases as I return to the truth that I must work with God, not just for Him.
When I’ve reached the end of me, the God of beginnings takes over.
I guess what I’m proposing is that we call it what it is. I certainly don’t take it lightly. If it’s truly burn out, there are many people including myself who will come alongside you and get you the help you need. In our socially connected world, no one needs to burn out or even get close. You’re not alone!
But If it’s anything less, call it what it is. Clearly define it within the broad definition of burnout… boredom, lack of focus, lack of accountability, the need for personal growth, the need for rest, neglecting time with God, neglecting time with family, unused talents, misplaced priorities, over committing, over reaching, loss of perspective, negativity, or even poor choices driven by good intentions… whatever it is, let us be honest before God and do what we need to do to get the fire burning again. He is an infinite source of strength, peace, passion, hope and life. He has a clear purpose for each of us and it’s not to stop fulfilling our purpose. If we only realized a hint of the potential He sees in us… truly nothing would be impossible.
So feel free to share this, facebook it, or tweet these words to anyone you want… I promise I won’t correct you when you tell them I yelled at you.