I live on writing, on creating, on explaining. For years I would literally jump and twirl for joy (just ask my coworkers) when writing a new blog post or putting the finishing touches on a grant proposal at work.
I loved explaining the intricacies of transformational development and desertification. I loved thinking up new ways to share my favorite story ever–the story of rural farmers overcoming poverty and transforming their lives. I loved writing the first couple of grant proposals. I loved improving on the next batch of proposals. I loved crafting reports on the funding we received. I loved following up on those reports the next year.
I loved it all the first four or five times around. I burned out some time between thinking up the 5th and 6th best way to explain what we do to the same funder.
I love the work that Plant With Purpose does, but I no longer love the work that I do.
God has other for plans for me, I know. Exciting plans. Only-God plans for only-God dreams.
But for now, I’ve lost that loving feeling and I still have 25 more days with Plant With Purpose.
I’m desperate for a spark of hope. I know God WILL restore my joy. I know He’s up to something crazy stupid good. But I want to see Him now. I hunger, ache, for a sliver of joy to hold me over. To assure me that I won’t always feel this burnout. That my brain won’t always feel like mush and that God won’t just move at some unforeseen point in the future when He clears a way, but that He can and He will move NOW. That He is present NOW. That His joy is for the taking NOW.
On Tuesday I shared a quote from T.S. Eliot’s play, The Rock, that really struck a chord with me. I’ve been mulling over this phrase in particular:
“Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.”
At work, I’ve lost my words. I can still complete assignments, meet deadlines, operate on auto-pilot. But I’ve lost the words that flowed so freely, out of love and joy. I wonder, Is this a chance to experience more of The Word?
Can He move? Will He move NOW?
I’m losing hope. Burnout has taught me to identify myself by my own inadequacies. Burnout has forced me to admit that I can’t accomplish what I want. Burnout has cornered me into believing that I will never accomplish what I want. That I will never care. Never grow. Never be passionate again. Burnout has pumped poisonous lies into my bloodstream and I’m scared I will never wash clean.
Daniel Taylor wrote, “Freedom is useless if we don’t exercise it as characters making choices… We are free to change the stories by which we live. Because we are genuine characters, and not mere puppets, we can choose our defining stories. We can do so because we actively participate in the creation of our stories. We are co-authors as well as characters. Few things are as encouraging as the realization that things can be different and that we can have a role in making them so.”
Burnout wants to claim my life, my thoughts, my time, my last 25 days at work. But I believe in change, in growth. I believe I can change; things can look different.
The best analogy I can come up with for my current state is that of a depressed person who has decided to move forward with treatment (medicine and counseling), but who hasn’t yet started the treatment yet. I know a break is what I need. A new country, a new job, a new challenge give me hope of healing, but I’m not there yet.
But even now, before the metaphorical drugs kick in, I can take baby steps. I can choose health. I can choose to fight the lies. I can have a role in making things look different. And I can give myself grace when change is slow going.
I am taking an important step. Desperate times call for desperate measures: I’m starting a twelve week program to sober up from my toxic thoughts. More like a twelve-week challenge to foster creative freedom. To bring back that loving feeling.
One of my wonderful coworkers bought me The Artist’s Way at Work. I’ve gone through The Artist’s Way before and have been transformed by the weeks of intentional focus on creativity. In creating, I experience God.
Even in this time of burnout, I will fight for my creativity. I will choose to start this program now. I will choose to believe that things can look different. That I can experience His joy now.
If you’re a creative, or a blocked creative, or a wannabe creative, I highly recommend The Artist’s Way— either for work or the original. There are a ton of really cool exercises to combat our inner critics, to nurture our dreams, and to enjoy the great gifts our Creator has given us and to learn to use them to bring healing and hope to our world.
Exercise by exercise, page by page, and week by week, I will use my words to glorify The Word. I’m excited to share how God moves, and I will pass along useful tips and assignments to help you in your own creative journey.