The other night, one of my kids was at his finest. It was as if a switch had been flipped. He went from easy-going to stonewalling us, arms crossed, resolutely stubborn. And man, was I getting the stinkeye.
Though his attitude was not without consequences, God was kind to me. I think He reminded me that disproportionate reactions are a lot of times symptoms that something deeper’s being triggered. Thankfully, this tipped my husband and I off to dig and uncover the problem more than just slam down the symptom.
Because when you’re going through a hard time, life can feel a little…naked. So our emotional safety is directly tied to the degree of acceptance we sense from someone.
Missed Part I? Grab it here.
I’ve been grieving some losses lately. The other day on my jog, they seemed to bottleneck inside, trickling out my eyes as my feet kept pounding, step after step. I’m not sure what God’s doing, but as I described in the last post, grief seemed… appropriate.
Though God’s given me glimpses of hope I can’t ignore–it also seems to deny Him access to all of me when I’m ignoring I feel anything, and jumping right to “It’ll be okay.”
It was one night several years ago when a couple of good friends were helping me sort action figures, Legos, and other kid-detritus into bins in my boys’ room following dinner together while our husbands were out of town. During the meal, they had asked candidly about how I was doing with our adoption—which is to say, the adoption we painfully decided not to complete.
Truthfully, my heart felt raw, as if it were beating outside of my body. My grief felt so vulnerable, so scraped and skinned and gaping, that privacy was all I could fathom to deal with it. I felt oddly embarrassed that we’d taken steps out of obedience to pursue this, and told people about it–and then, also out of obedience, backed out.
Missed Part I? First, grab it here.
When you felt like you were finally surfacing from burnout–or as I called it, tired-mad, I might tell you what I found out. That sometimes burnout is simply burnout, because life is hard. And even though God never gives us more than He’ll give us strength to handle (He says so here and here), it still can feel like a rightful scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel, ta-da-I-survived type thing. (Whether it’s godly or not to be burned out is another post for another time, perhaps. But pretending it’s not there doesn’t really help.)
Questions that may help as you process burnout
- How have my responsibilities challenged me? How have they changed me?
- What activities “give me life” after I’ve helped someone?
- Who do I feel comfortable debriefing with?
- What questions do I find myself asking—and what lies am I tempted to believe (“I’m the only one who can help.” “I can’t afford to rest.” “Jesus wouldn’t say no here”)—when I am burdened by helping someone?
- In what Scriptures do I find hope and comfort when I am helping someone? (I like Isaiah 55:1-3.)
- (One of my favorites:) What would a compassionate friend say to me about this? (I often afford more compassion to others than I do to myself.)
- What sense of purpose and meaning do I find in my work? What do I love about what I do?
- What do I do when I am not handling stress well? What does the “stressed” version of me look like?
- What methods, people, and practices have helped me in the past?
- What do I think God thinks about my work?
- What questions do I have for God because of my work?
I glimpsed it in the slight tightness, the fatigued determination of her face that day: that distinct weariness that comes from herding toddlers and preschoolers 24/7. Having worn that particular look for approximately eight years myself, I know it well.
And though there are few exhaustions like young-mom exhaustion—I felt my own version of tired-mad that week. (Um. My family may have felt it, too.) One of my favorite takeaways from the movie Home were those hybrid-emotions, like sad-mad. Anger is a secondary emotion anyway, right? We feel angry usually because we were first hurt; afraid; grieved. Depleted, taken for granted; so very tired. So I have to plunge my fingers into my anger, exploring a bit.
Today I’m writing for those of you who identify with Thomas more than Peter. Who peer at the Bible with head cocked, your mouth a line of thoughtfulness. Who tend to uncover more questions than answers in your faith. Whose pain has resulted in a series of unsteady steps backward, confused but holding on.
I’m writing to the strugglers.