Wednesday, December 16, 2015

To Burn-Out and Back Again

I was recently explaining to a friend the toll that ministry had taken on me over the last year. As many of you know if you have been keeping up, I spent much of last year with intense panic and anxiety attacks. With the stress of youth trauma, suicide attempts, rapes, and demonic dreams, I was sick more than I've ever been in my life. I had an awful cold for 3 straight months, losing my voice for quite a few weeks, and I was throwing up with flu-like symptoms twice in less than a year.

The stress and pressure of not being able to save these kids from the bad things that happen to them had led me to a heavy dose of burn-out. Unable to have normal emotions, motivation, or peace, I had to take a step back.

At the time, I didn't really understand God's plan, or if it was His plan at all. These kids were my life, I didn't have time to step back from them! I was distraught and confused as to why I was seemingly being pushed by God to back away for a month and learn how to breathe again.

Over that month I wept, as if part of my soul was being ripped from me. I had spent every waking moment for the last two years worrying about my Apache students and trying to fix their problems. Now God had given me an even harder task. . . taking care of myself.

As the month passed I felt myself begin to heal. My emotional reactions to things became more normalized and less extreme. I began to relate better to Cameron, to love better as my capacity for love filled up again. I had been poured out, dry in a desert, but my cup was being filled and I was amazed when I realized how my lack of ministry boundaries had affected who I was.

As God forced me to heal, I began to finally see how His plan made sense. I was again able to relate to the kids with excitement, and as I finally put strict boundaries on my life and ministry I was able to enjoy ministry so much more. And then, just within these last few weeks it truly clicked:

My ministry now is so different than it was before. . . and it is so much better. Cameron and I are thrilled when students come up to stay with one of us for the weekend, and together he and I are a better ministry team than I ever was alone. This is a new season for ministry as Cameron and I get married, but our ministry seems stronger, healthier, and more exciting than ever before.

You see, God had to pull me away from my calling for a minute, but He didn't steal it away from me, punishing me or forcing me to move on. He simply needed me to be healthy, and ready, and when I was He handed it back to me, saying, "To this I have called you. Now love these kids with a happy and healthy heart." 

And my goodness, what a happy family it is: God, Cameron, me, and these kids. I feel whole again, and so blessed to be allowed to continue in the relationships God has been cultivating for the last two years. These kids are family to me and Cameron, and they know it. So I praise God for helping me do what I could not do on my own. I praise God for knowing what I needed when I refused to see it, and for blessing me and Cameron with the best teenagers in the world as we build a home together.

Burn out or no, I wouldn't trade this last year for anything. But wherever you are, in your ministry or your job, I implore you to listen when God calls you to take a step back. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and His care for our needs is far greater than we realize. Let Him heal you, and watch as His light shines brighter than ever before.

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