When people say to me, “You must be busy planting a church” I usually sheepishly respond back with, “Yeah. But it’s been busier.”
I never thought I’d experience burnout by the time I turned 30. I didn’t know the signs for burnout. But what do you expect when you get married at 19, take 5 classes a semester, work 25+ hours a week to graduate at 21 just in time to start your first job before your firstborn turns 3 months? Then we bought our first house and had our second child at age 23. By age 26, we had our third child, I started full-time graduate school, increased my work week to 50-60 hours (not including 2-3 hours of commute time per day), became the assistant part-time pastor (which is NEVER part-time) at our church, and all the while had fun spending family vacations speaking at youth events and living the musician’s dream leading a band with my best friends. Throughout those ten years there were also “hobby” type things such as founding conferences, serving on boards and committees of local and national organizations and even recording an album. Oh yes, then there was that one time I said, “Since life is super busy and hectic and we’re pretty unhealthy, why don’t we do even more by starting a new church in Detroit!” Yep, I was that dumb.
When you’re in your twenties you have the energy to do things physically that you probably shouldn’t. The reality is that you don’t have the wisdom and experience to sustain it.
You’re supposed to hone skills and accrue wins and losses through experiences. But you don’t know enough about yourself to sustain long seasons of craziness. I didn’t. And I crashed without even knowing.
Linda would tell me all throughout that decade we were doing too much, leading too much, gone too much. I would leave the house at 8AM come home at 7PM and then do other non-related work from 10PM on to 2AM. If it wasn’t grad school it was something for church, or a conference or a campaign or a project. I paid the price for it. Then we, Linda and our boys, paid the price for it.
But like many who have recovered (are recovering) from burnout, our story is one of self-learning and redemption. Five years later I continue to process our crazy decade and ask what else can I learn. Here are five things that I discovered about myself during the process of recovering from burnout. I’m planning to turn each of these into blog topics soon:
- I have sinful and destructive coping mechanisms
- I have an inflated ego and unhealthy ambition
- I developed a newfound fear of working hard and fear of failure
- I found courage to learn about the broken me and the Father’s picture of me
- I am committed to die tired and joyful
Are you in your twenties? Pay attention.
Are you in your thirties? Journey with me.
Are you way beyond this stage of life? Mentor me, please.
Burnout is not the end of us. God has so much more oil for us even if we’re burning the candle at both ends.