Today’s talk on Sabbath & Burnout was not new; it is a talk I give every year, and it is completely necessary. After the service I sat in circles and listened to stories of people burning / burned out by life, work, circumstance and so on. It was tragic. The overwhelming sense I had as I pronounced the closing benediction was God saying, STOP. TAKE A DAY OFF. – and that’s exactly what I said. There is a way to burn for God, or for work, what we do, our passions in life. And then there is also a thing called foolish burning. Many times I find that we are our own enemy; the unstoppable drive is like a tank, bulldozing over our own health, our relationships, our well-being.
So I’m re-posting these thoughts below about burnout and depression; mind you, depression is not always emotional; I believe there are also physical depressions (a depressed body or a depressed immune system), spiritual depressions. And I think these thoughts below, posted from my years in seminary, are very instructive and helpful…
February 19, 2009
Darrell Johnson gave a stirring talk on depression among the clergy today – and personally I think he should blog. So I transcribed some notes and reflections – from my own experience mingled with some of the theologies he presents concerning this “shame-based killer”. I’ve come to see depression among the clergy as a form of self-martyrdom – an unholy dying (in some cases, not all) – because it is often at our own hands, and before the idols of our own hero-worship (ourselves). More thoughts here:
Depression is symbiotic.It is never exclusively an inside-the-skull thing, Dr. Packer talks about the three-ness of human being; body, mind, & spirit (he doesn’t hold to the soul/spirit bifurcation). When depression hits, it is so often on all three fronts @ the same time, even though we can’t see it right away. For me the formula was like this:
Body – deteriorating health / not taking care of how I eat, sleep & exercise / unhealthy rhythms (or no rhythms at all)
Mind – continually denying myself and depriving myself of my inner-most needs and joys. This is a form of self-induced schizophrenia.
Spirit – not having a clue as to what I was made for, what I was called to, how I was designed. What a shame that this is so epidemic.
Depression is intense. I’ll never forget those plunges I first felt sitting on the 7 train on the way home working in NYC, exhausted. It sucked, quite literally.
Depression comes about by Great Expectations – Darrell’s insight here – we think we are more than we are – saints – in the hagiographical sense. The problem begins not in our striving to be great but rather in our idolizing; thus the original sin is placing human beings on pedestals and trying to attain these impossibly high notions of greatness.
Depression can come from “sedentary habits” – DJ cites Spurgeon here. I’m still guilty of this. Hoping between semesters to lose some pounds and get back in shape. Hold me to this.
Depression is better prevented, not cured. We’re better off pre-empting this killer than trying to deal with it at its height. No one likes having their hard drive crash only to be survived by that one, lone, blinking light of the will.
Depression is treated by “pacing” – this is me. Actually I get this from a quote from OM founder George Verwer who says that “burning for Christ” is a good thing – but we are to burn as coal – long and deep – and not like petrol – which flares up like a flash in the pan and fizzles out fairly quick.
A moving story of depression – as told by Gerry Sitzer, A Grace Disguised. DJ recommends this book by a prof @ Whitworth in Spokane who witnessed the deaths of his mother, wife and daughter in a split second. Moving story.
Anyways. My thoughts. Does this sound familiar to u?