Wednesday, December 15, 2010

busyness, burnout and the grace of God (12) conclusion

Last week I finished the story of what happened when I got too busy. So where am I at, 9 months later?

My feelings have returned to the usual random collection of ups and downs. The lessons I learned stay with me: wisdom to say 'no', willingness to rest, and an awareness of my warning signs of burnout - things like anxiety, discouragement, lack of perspective, loss of motivation, and the inability to relax.

Am I still too busy? At times this year, I have been, with the usual consequences. It's a little disheartening, after all God has taught me, to still battle the same temptations: perfectionism, ambition, people-pleasing, my drive to fix things, my longing to do everything in one lifetime, and the superwoman syndrome.

I've made some helpful changes. I cut down my extra ministry commitments to 1 a term (I've learned some wisdom!) but discovered that 1 ministry commitment easily expands to fill as much time as 5 ministry commitments (my seminars and articles were very thorough! :) ). You see, the issue isn't really my circumstances - it's my heart.

But God has been at work in my heart. I'm less driven. Instead of grabbing every ministry opportunity, I hold my dreams more lightly, trusting God's timing. As you know, I'm planning to take some time off blogging next year to rest and reflect on what God wants from me - not something I would have done a year ago. God is good.

One final comment: please don't conclude from what I've written that busyness is a bad thing. It's good to be busy in God's service (Phil 2:17, 2 Thess 3:8-9). But when we're so busy that we burn out and can no longer serve, or fail to serve those close to us, or can't trust God and rest - then we've got a problem. And that problem is in our heart. That's what this series has been about: the idols of our heart that drive us to over-busyness, and the way that God's grace sets us free.

Let's work hard, pouring ourselves out in God's service; but when we've done all we can, let's rest, trusting God to work in people's lives.

images are from flik and Laurie Pink at flickr


Sarah said...

Thanks for this series, Jean. As someone who struggles with trying to do everything and not saying no, I've found it enormously helpful as you've shared your own struggles. Sometimes I've found drastic measures are the way to go in the fight against temptation, and moving from the city to the country has been very beneficial in taking some of the many choices away (of course that may not have happened if I hadn't married a farmhand). So now when I hear about the burden of busyness on my city friends, I encourage some of them to move to the country, even though that's not possible for everyone.

Praying your blogging break is restful and beneficial.

Jean said...

Thanks, Sarah!

Well, I won't be moving to the country, but I can see how that would help! :)

Although I must say, my friend who's moved towns (not to the country, admittedly) finds that her old struggles are now catching up with her. She's the kind of lovely person who collects people, to the point where she has so many she can't keep up with them all! It's taken her a few years, but she's in a similar place again!

So yes, you can move from your situation, but not your heart. But sometimes, as you say, a new situation can remove you from temptation, and give you time and space to establish more godly ways of thinking about and doing things.

Love Jean.

Sarah said...

Yes, that's very true - moving won't solve heart problems. Even though I live in the middle of nowhere (the nearest main town has approx. 700 people!), I've still have intense periods of busyness where I've found myself wondering how on earth I'd managed to get myself into old habits.

Yeah I agree that we can put things in place to flee from temptation i.e. a shopaholic avoiding shops or an alcoholic avoiding pubs, parties etc. It won't stop us from sinning or wanting to sin, but it does lessen the temptation somewhat. I've had more thinking time out here where I can now see ungodly patterns of people-pleasing etc which I couldn't see in Perth because I was constantly on the go. When I find myself wanting to get involved in EVERYTHING, a long drive on dark country roads with roos about is a bit of a deterrent and reminds me of the necessity of rest. :)

Jean said...

:) I can imagine roos on the road are very good reminders of the need for rest!

A girl with a smile said...

this is encouraging. thank you... for finding yourself at His feet.