Can you let go of your exhaustion?
Several years ago, I was working a bazillion part time gigs in San Francisco, living in a constant state of panic as bills still weren't getting paid. One small comfort was the reality that I wasn't alone. It seemed like everyone I knew was overextended. I noticed that it was cool to be exhausted. It was cool to be busy. When someone arrived at Happy Hour complaining about how tired they were and how much work they were doing, it was rewarded with attention, encouragement and compassion.
About that same time, I was introduced to Brené Brown's Guideposts for Wholehearted Living. Reading them, I felt so completely validated and challenged that I wrote them out on the cover of my calendar as constant inspiration. One in particular stood out: "Cultivating Play and Rest - Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth." Suddenly my experience at Happy Hour made sense. My constant feeling of pressure, panic, and urgency made sense.
It wasn't just about paying the bills. It was about the structure of our culture and the messaging we receive. If we work hard enough, we will succeed. If we aren't succeeding, we must not be working hard enough. There are even Christian theologies that encourage exhaustion. Prosperity Gospel teaches that if you're doing Christianity right, God rewards you with money and good health. If you're poor or sick, then you aren't working hard enough, praying hard enough, or doing enough. Many theologians over the centuries have written about whether or not God's love is freely given or if it is earned.
What hope do we have in a culture where our employers reward our exhaustion, our peers reward our exhaustion, and even God rewards our exhaustion?
It has been one week since we signed the closing paperwork to finalize our purchase of 1017 w 29th Street KCMO. It is only now, after the purchase is complete and work has begun, that I am feeling the impact of such an intense project in a short period of time. Within 30 days of signing the purchase agreement, I lined up all the necessary inspections from various recommended providers - roofing, waterproofing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc. At the same time, it was Lent and Holy Week - the most intensive schedule of Worship Services each year. I'm exhausted. I'm losing track of appointments and meetings. I'm having trouble coming up with words. My body hurts. And still, I'm resisting the idea of giving myself rest. I'm hesitating to take a day off. Why? Because exhaustion is a status symbol and my self-worth is connected to my productivity.
It is a pattern I have been working to shift for several years. This pattern runs deep for me. At the same time, I know that I can't sustain ministry without rest. Today, I recommit myself to sustainable ministry that "cultivates play and rest," that "lets go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth". Will you join me? I sincerely hope so!