Today’s “Pruning” post is from Brad Ruggles. I have followed (gosh, sometimes that sounds so creepy) Brad for quite awhile, but finally met him last year at the Blogger’s Meetup before Catalyst (which he graciously organizes). Brad is one of the guys that has both passion and talent and uses is them to make a difference in world. I have nothing but respect for him and his wife, Lisa.
Find Brad’s blog here.
And his twitter here.
Lindsey asked me and a few other bloggers to guest-post on her blog on the subject of intentionally cutting back in life. I told her that in all honesty, I really don’t have things figured out in this area. I still struggle with finding the right balance between work and family time. I constantly battle with the desire to do more work for God instead of spending more time with God (sounds like the premise for a good book to me).
God is definitely still working on me in this area but I can say this – I’m better now than I used to be.
My Crash And Burn Story
My own story of forced “pruning” happened about a year ago, although the circumstances that led up to my crash actually took place in the year or two before. I was on staff at a great church doing something I loved – actually several things I loved. I was an expert at wearing and changing hats. The problem was that I loved the hats I wore and had a hard time taking them off. My wife kept asking when I was going to cut back and, of course, I kept saying, “Soon. Let me just get through the next couple of weeks.”
For a serial over-committer, weeks can turn into months before we know it. I was pushing myself and my schedule to the limit and loving every minute of it.
It took God moving me down to a new city to slow me down enough to listen to the people around me. It wasn’t more than 6 months after we moved down to Indianapolis that the crash happened. For the first time in many years I didn’t have the hectic schedule of ministry or the constant string of commitments so my body had a chance to slow down. It was kind of like that feeling you have after rollerskating for a couple of hours (hey, I’m a product of the 80s!). Once you take the roller skates off and try walking you find that you keep wanting to push off with your feet even though there are no wheels on your shoe.
My health and energy went downhill. I went to a Doctor and found out that I had a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue. My cortisol and hormone levels were all out of whack. The way my doctor explained it to me, I had operated on overdrive for so long that I burned out my adrenal glands sending my energy level down the drain.
Recovering Commitment Junkie
I began a journey to recovery that was long and slow.
God used that time in my life to adjust my priorities. I finally learned a lesson many workaholics and church-rockstar-wannabees try to ignore: when we keep ourselves too busy in life and ministry, we squeeze out any margins God has to work in. The truth is, I liked being busy because it made me feel more important. It did something for my ego to know that there were people and projects out there that needed me.
So now, I’m a recovering commitment junkie. I definitely don’t have this figured out but I’m getting better at recognizing the burnout warning signs and listening to the people God put in my life.
It’s not easy. In our increasingly connected society we’re bombarded every day with everyone’s accomplishments on Twitter, Facebook or blogs. That constant barrage of “Look what I’m doing!” begins to make us think we should be doing more. Our culture shines a spotlight on busy people. No one ever won an Oscar for taking the year off.
One of the things I learned is that God puts people in our lives to let us know when we’re pushing too hard or stretching ourselves too thin. Those people are in your life right now whether you know it or not. You might not be listening to them but they’re there. The biggest advocates for down-time is your life may be your wife or family but it might also be your friend, counselor or parents.
We all have someone who has looked us in the eye at some point and asked us, “Are you doing ok? You look a little stressed out.” If you’re like me, you probably are good at making up some kind of excuse about why you’re tired or how things will ease up once you get this next project finished. The truth is, we’re lying to them and, worst of all, we’re lying to ourselves.
I don’t know if you can relate to any part of my story. I hope not. Hopefully you’re able to manage your schedule better than I did. I hope you’ve learned how to say no and not over-commit yourself. But chances are many of you have been where I was. Maybe your body hasn’t suffered because of it (yet) but you’ve been there. You’ve tiptoed on the tight-rope of overcommitment and flirted with burnout.
Can I just challenge you to step back and examine your life right now? If you’re so busy that you have a difficult time finding margins you might want to ask yourself why you’re running so fast. You could be that little hamster running like mad on his little wheel but going nowhere. Give yourself permission to step off the hamster wheel and slow down. Follow the example of our Savior and set aside intentional times to recharge (Matt. 14:22-23, Mk. 6:30-32). Don’t put it off, set aside that time right now. Pencil it in your calendar and ask your friend or spouse to hold you accountable.
Our God promises rest for the weary and restoration for the burned out. He is the good shepherd that leads his sheep into times of rest beside the still waters. Let him breathe new life into your weary soul today.
Are you a commitment junkie? How do you manage your time to keep healthy margins in life?