Welcome to the End of the year! I know it feels like the end of the world (and some are hoping it is, just so they never have to see their results, or face buying Christmas presents…) but it probably isn’t. And that means I have time for another post.
So let’s talk about burnout!
I remember school assemblies in much the same way one would remember an organ transplant where the anesthetic didn’t work. This is unfortunate. But fortunately this gives me the ability to look back on 12 Januaries worth of “Let’s start strong” and 12 Septembers, Octobers, and Novembers worth of “Let’s finish strong”, and to remember them quite vividly. It seems the biggest battles faced throughout the year were either apathy or burnout. No one worries if you work at an even keel until you keel over… the problem is when it all goes down in smoke. This is commonly referred to as burnout.
The topic of burnout came up recently in a sermon I heard where the pastor said we should strive for burnout.
Now hold up! Surely that’s not right!
But take a step back with me into Old Testament times…
Imagine for a moment, won’t you, that you are standing in a field. It’s quite a pathetic field as far as fields go – not much grass on this one. There are a few sheep, but you’re meant to be looking after them and that’s not going too well because your field is kind of pathetic. But there’s not much you can do about that because your field is in a desert. Yep, sucks to be you! But just as you’re nearing the edge of insanity you notice something shiny off to your right. Being bored and easily distracted by shiny things, you glance around, your sheep look fine (well, as fine as sheep look in a sparse field in the middle of the desert), so you decide to go take a closer look. The shiny thing proves to be an even more awesome distraction than you first thought! There in front of you is a bush!
But this is no ordinary bush! Oh no! This bush is on fire!
Normally you would panic and scream like a small girl, but there’s something a little odd about this fire. You notice that the green leaves that are being fiercely attacked by angry flames are perfectly content to chill there. No ash, no soot, no burnt edges or barbecued worms… This bush is on fire, but it’s not burning. This bush is alight, but it’s not consumed…
This is the first fire that doesn’t burn out.
Have you ever thought about that little fire? Why is it that God didn’t let the bush burn? The Old Testament is littered with stories of things burning up – there are random flashes of lightning from cloudless skies that burn up alters, offerings and water! So why did God choose fire for this?
Well, I may be way off here, but let me theorise.
Exodus is a picture of God’s saving work for His people. God used a light – something bright that can both burn and destroy… or bring light and clarity – to initiate His plan. We know that Christians are called to be the “light of the world”, but my question now is: why a burning bush? Why not a star or a cute floating flame that would guide the way (Think “Brave”-style willo-the-wisp but with way more flair)?
I think that God was showing that when He is the creator of the fire, then the fire needn’t destroy its host. If Moses had gone on and lit a little fire under the next bush over, he would be wasting a perfectly good bush (that he probably needed for feeding those cute little sheep). The difference here is that God lit the first fire, man would have lit the second. God’s fire is a “holy flame”.
When we talk about burnout we talk about giving too much, not taking a break, working too hard… But let’s change the scenario and put it into the context of work for the Kingdom – God’s work! If we are burning with Holy Fire then we never stop giving light. We don’t consume everything in our path in a blaze of glory that takes us down too. No, we burn with a fire that will last eternally, a fire that is the light of God and not our own works.
At the end of the year we get to think about Christmas too – when the light of the World stepped down into our darkened world. His light still shines. This December I want to be burning with his fire – not burning out on my own. His is a flame that has lasted from eternity past and will continue into eternity – I want to be engulfed in that fire, caught up in His brilliance, and on fire for God. I might take a break every now and then, but the light inside me doesn’t.
And that is what makes the difference.