Lately, I hear a lot of people saying, "I'm burned out,” “I'm worn out” or “I’m just going through the motions". I feel that I am wise enough to differentiate between those who are being lazy and looking for an excuse and those who are really burned out. Personally, in the past ten days, I’ve been to the doctor three times, only to discover that my adrenals are all but functionally gone. I have woken up frequently with severe back spasms and lived with intense daily back pain. The doctor’s diagnosis for all these symptoms? Stress and burn out. Because my adrenal glands have stopped doing their job, my body is looking for ways to relieve the stress. In reality, I’m not taking sufficient care of myself. I’m not taking the time I need for soul care.
I am a pastor and guide in a church movement that deeply believes in and practices "faith without works is dead" and that, according to Jesus, the most important matters of the law are justice, mercy and faithfulness. Yet often times, and to our own detriment, we are addicted to the "works of our hands". We are so accomplishment oriented that we forget the "good portion" of enjoying Jesus, which ultimately allows us to care for our own souls and the souls of others.
In his book Pursuing Justice, Ken Wystma states that “many of us go out pursuing justice, thinking we will find meaning and goodness in adopting a particular cause. We end up fatigued and burned-out”. I would add that there are many of us so addicted to accomplishment that we starve our souls for the sake of accomplishment. Ken goes on to say that “...when justice is a duty, it will weigh you down.”
With all the burnout I see, and am personally experiencing, I have to ask this question: As guides, are we more concerned with getting a job done than we are of soul care? Or to stay consistent with the !dea Camp, human care? Let me be clear - I'm not talking about the either/or conundrum, which pits the "good portion" against the "pure religion" of the early church. Actually, I would say, true intentional human care is the very element needed to actually keep our religion pure and sustainable. Human care allows us to know and enjoy Jesus deeply, while focusing on the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
When these two worlds meet, the good portion and pure religion, justice and mercy no longer weigh us down but become the place where we are actually closest to God and as Ken says, “giving your life away becomes your greatest delight.”
My personal burnout, and those experiencing it around me, have inspired me to write a blog series entitled Soul Care. In it, I will explore the practices and rhythms that help us care for our souls so that we don’t walk away from lives of justice, mercy, and faithfulness as shadows of who we could be.
About a year and a half ago, I met Charles Lee and the Ideation group at a Chicago conference. I was amazed by the ideas, concepts, and networking of the Ideation family. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a conference guy. But thanks to my friends Jacob Vanhorn and Chris Marlow, I visited Ideation and instantly became a loyalist. I am a fanatic for the antihero idea, and when I saw and Chris explained to me that in the Idea Camp there are no superstars, no green rooms, no high paid speaker, no dominant voices, and no "one-size-fits-all mentality", I was in. Then I heard they were coming to my city with their Idea Camp community to focus on, you guessed it, Human Care. I guess I’m not the only one dealing with or guiding others through this stuff. Upon the invitation to be part of this community, I am proud to be an Idea Camper.
I’d like to invite you to join us on September 21-22 as some of the best thinkers and practitioners from a diverse background of vocations come together to focus on caring for others and caring for those involved in the work of justice and mercy.
Hope to see you in Austin, maybe we can chat over a fine local brew about what Human Care looks like in our specific contexts.
see you in September,