January 12, 2012

Down In Flames

I love counseling. And I don't mean I love to counsel people - although that's part of my calling as a Pastor, and I do enjoy it - to an extent, anyway. What I mean is, I love to receive it! [Proverbs 15:22 and 19:20 both teach us that seeking Godly counsel and advice from others is a great sign of wisdom.] I consider it a great privilege to be able to seek someone's advice - to pour out my heart to someone who's trained to listen - who can help me sift through the dirt to find that one little nugget of gold. I love counseling so much that I'm going tomorrow. My counselor, who's not only a LPC, but a retired Pastor, is named Mark. And last week as Mark and I were talking, he said something that got my attention. It was for all intents and purposes a warning. This is what he said:

"Brian, I know you've known people who've experienced burnout. Well, you're not there. In fact, I don't think you're even growing in that direction. But I do think - after listening to what you're telling me - that right now, you're tilling the soil and prepping fertile ground for burnout. Now is the time to stop that dead in it's tracks." (My paraphrase)

Needless to say, Mark was dead on in suggesting that I absolutely do know people who have not just burned out, they've gone down in flames like the Hindenburg! And that "tilling the soil" he spoke of - I've felt the tiller cranking up and beating the life out of the ground inside me at times, knocking my teeth together as it reverberated through every tip of my existence. He was right. And I was ready to hear whatever he was going to tell me that would begin to loosen my grip on the tiller. I do NOT want to go down in flames! And I'm pretty sure you don't either. That said, many of you physically go home at the end of every day. But mentally, you're still at the office. Your brain not only ignores closing time, it punches in for double-overtime! Some of us, our weekend is no longer about relaxing, unwinding, and refueling. It's more about further exhausting ourselves, refusing to believe that the train needs to pull over at any passing station. Like me, some - if not many - of you may not necessarily be going down in flames. But one of your engines is about to catch on fire. (You've seen one of those movies, right? You know what happens when Engine 1 goes out, don't you? Apparently Engine 2 is a total follower!) I want to encourage you: DO SOMETHING NOW! Take action. Get some objective advice. And allow me to grace you with a freebie.

After informing me of my "tilling the soil" issue, Mark asked me a question: "What do you do at the end of your Thursday?" (You see, Thursday is my Friday, Friday is my day off, Saturday is my Sabbath, and Sunday...I work.) So again, the question: "What do you do at the end of your Thursday?" I sat confused for a moment, looked at Mark, probably made a weird face, and told him, "I go home". And in all honesty, that's exactly what I do. I pack up and head home, ready for a great, relaxing, fun-filled weekend with my family. Except somehow, that's often NOT what I experience. Because so many times I find myself on Friday and Saturday thinking about Sunday and Monday. (Been there? I'm betting you have.) And this is where Mark gave me some really great advice about CLOSURE. Essentially he told me, "Brian, at the end of my Friday, I will clean off my desk, make a To-Do List for Monday, prep my calendar, make sure everything's in order, and I go home. And I've closed the day and week out knowing that work - the things that will await me on Monday - can wait for Monday." And like a sponge, I sat and let that soak in for a moment.

CLOSURE. Bringing a definitive and satisfying ending to something.

That's it. This week - my Sunday through Thursday - needs closure. It's over. It's a week. That's why God gave us weeks. He knew we weren't cut out to live in months. We can't sustain that. We're not wired that way. We'll go down in flames! And that's not in my long-term plan for my life. So beginning today - this cloudy, rain/sleet-filled Thursday - I will be laying a week to rest. It's over. I'm satisfied. And I have meetings to lead, a sermon to write, blogs to post, conversations to enjoy, and decisions to make next week. But they can wait. They can and they will.

What are you doing to avoid burnout?
What steps do you take to bring CLOSURE to your day or week?
Would love to hear your thoughts.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Mark rocks! He's my/our counselor too and (I think I've told you) I used to work with him at a clinic. Anyway, he's a wonderful counselor and I'm glad you have him.