'Morning Lilies' (C) Malcolm Duncan. Taken at Angkor Wat, February 2013.
"Rest" (This is the text of a message I brought on my visit to Cambodia in February, 2013.)
Do you need to rest?
There are 168 hours in a week. We can either ionvest them or spend them, but the one thing that we cannot do is save them. Although we like the idea of 'saving time', it is actually an impossibility. So many of us, perhaps all of us (if we are ruthlessly honest) try to cram far more into those 168 hours than we should. The result is we end up not only burning the candle at both ends, but we also burn it the middle. With so much candle-burning going on, it is not a surprise that we end up feeling 'burned out'. Exhasution, overwork and stress and are all far too common for people who lead churches, run mission agencies or work for N.G.O's. Of course, I know that the tendency to over-work can be seen far and wide across society and across our churches, but many of the people that 'answer a call' to work in an overseas context also end up working far too hard. If they are not careful, they do all the right things for all the right reasons, but they do them in their own strength. Whether it flows from an old-fashioned (and very unhelpful) Protestant work ethic which drives them into the ground or it flows from an over-inflated ego and the need to be the 'hero', the results are the same - emotional and physical burn-out. There are many indicators that you are overworking, let me highlight just six. Ask yourself if you are suffering from any of these.
- Irritability: Things that you could absorb and pass off as unimportant just six months ago now leave you short-tempered. You find yourself snapping at those who are closest to you and losing patience with people who need longer to do something or to process things. You are abrasive, difficult to work with and unsympathetic.
- Vulnerability: You are vulnerable to doing things that you know are wrong. That might be in areas of personal conduct, ethics, morals or in your work. You are more tempted to cut corners, to put up with shoddy work or to pass away your own mistakes as 'inevitable' whilst at the same tiem being hyper-critical of others.
- Erratic Behaviour: Those around you, either at home or at work or both, do not know how they will find you. People around you are walking on egg-shells far more often than they used to and they are anxious about you will respond to them. In fact, you find yourself 're-acting' far more often than 'responding'. The difference being when you are re-active you don't stop to think about your actions.
- Habitual Tiredness: You are tired all the time. When you wake up, you feel just as as tired, if not more so, than when you went to bed. You really struggle to make it through a day without feeling a real sense of exhaustion.
- Loss of Perspective: You are focussing on small things whilst letting big things lie undone. You find yourself feeling paralysed by the choices you have to make and the things you have to get done to the extent that you often find yourself thinking or saying 'I just don't know where to start'. You are missing deadline after deadline and you feel like you are sinking in your work and that there is no way out.
- Insecurity: You take criticism far too personally. You are hyper-sensitive to the things people say and you are finding yourself feeling more and more isolated, perhaps even paranoid, at what is going on around you. You think people are undermining you when they offer advice and you find your natural reaction to observations from others is one of self-defence.
What can I do?
If some of these (just one, actually) fits your behaviour right now, then it is very likely that you need to do something about your working / living blend and pattern. If you don't, you will end up sliding further and further down the slipway of overwork and you will either hurt yourself or those around you. This is not a game, it isn't inevitable and it is urgent that you do something about it.
Over the course of the next few posts, I will lay out, 'The Reason for Rest', 'The Rhythm of Rest', and 'The Result of Rest.' My last blog on the subject will draw some conclusions. I do hope you will find them helpful. Feel free to pass them on. I've decided to set them out in 5 posts so that they can be read in a more relaxed context - but the five posts flow from one into the other.
Remember, if you don't 'come apart' to get the right blend in your life, then you will eventually either fall apart of tear yourself and those you love apart.