I like war movies....I know, I am not a normal female.....Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down are some of my all time favs. You know the scene where the guy has been on the front lines fighting for all he is worth? (it is generic to all wars flicks) He is dug in and his entire universe is all about survival and taking the hill. He is filthy beyond words but there is fire in his eyes. Friends are killed, casualties amass and wounds are acquired. Fast forward to the end of the movie and we find our hero sitting under a tree sipping sweet tea and trying to make sense of it all. He can’t eat, he has night terrors and he can’t relate to anyone....That my friends, is burn out in a nut shell.
I don’t know if any of you out there have ever suffered from it.....if you haven’t let me tell you, it BITES! The mental, physical, spiritual and emotional exhaustion that comes is horrible and monumental. It is complete and it truly sucks every bit of vim and vigor out of the molecular structure of your being. (did you like that word picture?)
Why does it occur? Well, it is my opinion that it occurs when we choose to take on more than God has intended. We feel the weight of the great commission on our shoulders alone and we adjust our lives accordingly. As I am sure you can imagine, as a missionary living in Africa this is an easy one to fall into.
Or we might be doing what God has asked, but we begin to take over and not consult the Lord on anything anymore. “Its ok God, I got this. You are busy with the Iraqi war and orphans in Afghanistan” become the attitude. DUH!! And highly stupid!...I know from personal experience!
In 2011 Luis and I both suffered from SEVER burn out. We went back to NYC in the summer a twitching mass of nerves and weariness. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I NEVER EVER wanna be in that place again. We did NOT want to come back to Zambia, but got back on that plane out of simply obedience.
I am grateful for the experience though. It has taught me to LISTEN, really LISTEN to God’s voice. When we slow down enough to hear, we can get the direction and guidance that we need. It has taught me the value of having God’s peace in a situation. When we are sensitive to it we will know it in a given situation. And we will know when it isn’t there. Feel me? If God's peace isn't there, don't go forward! Plain and simple! It is a good rule of thumb to live by.
Through “burn out recovery” (sounds like I should have been in AA meetings) God has dealt with me on many levels. My own desire to be noticed, to do it all because I need to know that I am significant, to make sure that this sacrifice we have made to come here will mean something. Also I have learned the value of forgiveness. In burn out hurt happens. We hurt and we get hurt because the buffers of God’s grace are great disrepair. Out of our own tiredness, anxiety and stress we lash out and say things that aren’t cool. We get hurt because our own stress causes us to not see people through the lenses of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
So, God has used it to my benefit! For that I am so grateful! He does make all things beautiful in His time, if our hearts are set on him and willing to let Him delve into the deep painful parts.
It is my firm belief that when we are moving with in the margins that the Lord has set up for our lives then we won’t burn out. We get tired, yes....we need breaks, yes....but that is a totally different animal from burn out.