Let’s talk about what happens when you push past your limits. Let’s talk about grinding to a halt whether you want to or not. Let’s talk about the addiction we have to producing things so that we feel okay about ourselves.
And let’s talk about why we keep doing it, even though we are tired, and sick, and cranky.
I like to create things that delight people (like books and blogs and podcasts, and oh by the way, a church). The work of creating is fun for me; it’s part of how I’m wired up. I love to bring things into the world that refresh and delight people. I love to partner with God in creating beauty and life and hope.
But I am not God.
I am not a machine.
And neither are you.
I cannot keep creating without breathing, resting, and stopping. This is why I talk about having a regular rhythm of Sabbath (which simply means to stop). For twenty-four hours every week, I shut down email, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls, and creating of any kind. I take six hours a month in silence at a retreat center. I wake up early in the morning before the other
inmates family members in my house wake up, for silence and listening to God.
But sometimes that’s all theory, and even in practice it doesn’t help the megalomaniac inside of me that craves attention and affirmation.
Last week, I felt the pull to check Facebook on Sunday night, which is when I usually stop. Someone had written a scathing comment about one of my posts. It was mean, reactionary, and very personal. I took it offline with the person, and we worked it out (part of working it out was listening to this person and the bigger story of why they were so upset, and also about me setting some boundaries about what is and isn’t acceptable forms of communication). But because I put things out there, I open myself up to mean, angry, reactionary comments. And if you put yourself out there in any way, so do you.
And that gets exhausting. It makes us not want to put our stuff out there. It makes us want to hide, which is bad for everybody.
Those of us who put ourselves out there do so partly because God made us to want to be out there. We are a gift to the world (we really are). And we also do it because we crave the affirmation, attention, and adulation that being out there brings. I think God is really okay with that mixture, because it helps us get good stuff out into the world, and at the same time helps us grind to a halt and realize that we need God, not the affirmation of an adoring crowd.
But if you keep putting yourself out there without stopping to breathe, rest, and rest with God, you will get burned to a crisp.
When I am on the edge of being burned to a crisp, I feel entitled. I get irritable with the people in my life that are closest to me and that love me the most. I get overly sensitive to everything. I go looking for affirmation anywhere I can find it. I seek relief in things don’t actually bring relief (like eating too much and drinking too much). I go inwards and people can’t tell what I’m thinking. I have lots of inner dialogue with people, caricaturing them into cartoonish dimensions while over-inflating myself. I compete with others who are also creative. Is my stuff better received than theirs? I’ve actually compared the amazon sales rank of my book to the amazon sales rank of other books, looking to see if I’m better. Oh, save me, sweet Jesus.
When I am in a healthier place, I can put my work out there in the world for people to enjoy, and I can enjoy the gifts of others. I cheer others on, I’m sunny and bright, and I have space to listen. I’m optimistic, and I genuinely believe we can change the world, one beautiful creative act at a time.
Where are you on the spectrum of easy, healthy, joyful on the one side, and angry, bitter, and burned out on the other side? What do you need to start moving back to healthy? Do you know when you are burned out? (If you don’t, your people around you do know. Just ask them).
We are creators and we need to put our stuff into the world, for our own joy, for God’s glory (yes, I said it), and for the well-being of others. But we are not machines. Let’s learn how to stop. Let’s learn how to be nourished. Let’s learn how to find God on the bright days and on the dark days.
In it together, friends.