Monday, January 05, 2015

From burnout to... - pt. 2

As a follow-up to the post the other day where I listed the 12 Steps of Burnout, I just want to share a few random thoughts about some things that may have led to my pastoral burnout. 

As I stated in the previous post, I believe my burnout simmered for about 10 years. When the two elders I had been working with were suddenly gone, leaving our church with no formal leaders, I felt like a lot depended on me. I needed to develop some leaders! Prior to that, I didn't really view our times together as "leadership development." It was more just learning together, growing together, sharing together, etc. However, when I was faced with a leadership void in the church, I believed it was up to me to fill it. I probably tried to rush the process, and tried to do too much myself. Apparently I didn't trust the Spirit enough to work in and through the people he had in mind.

This kind of leads me to wonder just how much my burnout came about because of sin. Certainly not ALL cases of burnout are a result of sin, but it could be. If we define sin as anything that interferes in our relationship with God, then I would guess not trusting the Holy Spirit would be such.

Not listening to God is another sticky area. For a number of years I felt like God was calling me AWAY from that church community, but I didn't go because I never felt him calling me TO another place. I lived for a long time in that space where I wondered if it was God, or if I was being tempted by another. So I drug my feet and told myself I was being 'faithful to my call.' Maybe I was, or maybe I was refusing to listen to where God was calling me to (or away from). It's not like God hasn't called people to wander before...

I believe another contributing factor to my burnout was... I was too disciplined. I have always been a very disciplined person. When I put my mind to something, I can generally accomplish it. Every day I prayed over the names (and imagined the faces) of everyone connected with our church community, I studied diligently, I read continually, I was in accountability groups, I ran and worked out... I did all the things I was supposed to do to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy... but, perhaps I was doing them all in my own power. It's possible I was 'masking' the symptoms of burnout - at least in my mind - therefore not only delaying the inevitable, but making it that much worse in the end. I don't know. I suppose it's also possible it could have been even worse had I not done those things.

Introverts gain energy from spending time alone. I would think it would be more difficult to notice symptoms of burnout in an introvert over an extrovert. Being withdrawn, spending time alone, socially awkward... those behaviors can make a person a little harder to read. Looking through the 12 steps, I can see where many of them may outwardly appear as normal behavior for introverts, making it harder to tell anything is going on.

At any rate, those are just some random thoughts. I could be completely wrong about all of them. My wife has a saying she is fond of repeating: "Any strength taken to an extreme can become a weakness" (or something like that). I doubt that trying to help develop leadership skills is bad, or being disciplined, or introverted. However, surrendering our selves to God and living a Kingdom-minded life may involve a lot less of 'us' and a lot more simple obedience to His still-small-voice. Shoot, 'less' of us, and more of Him may even make us LOOK a lot less religious to some people. I dunno...

I hope to write more about this later.