Have you noticed that people aren’t quite the same after the pandemic? Apparently, humans beings can’t just pause most of their normal life activities for two years and then suddenly switch it all back on again without any difficulties. There are difficulties. People are generally more tired doing the same things, which makes them less willing to commit to the same number of things, which leaves some things undone, or at least struggling to get done. This seems to be especially true for voluntary activities like the local committees and clubs and churches that hold communities together and serve the needy and vulnerable. Serving others in these ways takes time and energy; resources that are already being demanded by commitments we can’t get out of, so often the easiest option is to cut the voluntary activities out. It makes sense. We only have so much to give. If we’re not careful, we’ll burn out. But I know a way to keep that from happening.
Here’s solution that will keep you from ever burning out in your service for others: don’t light the fire in the first place. Don’t serve at all. Don’t get involved. Never use your strength for anyone but your own self, your own care, your own security. Never notice the needs around you. Shift your eyes and shut your mouth and move on as quickly as possible. Focus only on protecting yourself. It really works: If you live this way, you’ll never burn out. You won’t be able to burn out, because you’ll never burn at all. You’ll remain entirely self-contained and cold, like a hearth filled only with the ashes of yesterday’s warmth. Is that really what you want for your life?
It seems to me that the whole point of protecting ourselves from burning out is so that we can keep on burning. So that we can keep on serving well. Like a fireplace was made for fire, our lives are made for God’s love, and when it burns in us it should radiate with heat and light to the world and the people around us as well. Yes, we are human and our strength is finite. Yes, it is foolish to pretend that we can meet every need ourselves. We can’t. We’re limited. We’ll serve better and longer if we recognise the reality of our limits and live within them. But God gave us this life for a reason—not to be hoarded and protected at all costs, but to be shared generously in the pattern of our Saviour. So tend the fire with wisdom and care. Take reasonable precautions against burning out.
Just don’t forget to keep burning.