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Goodness MattersSpiritual Burnout is Not an Option
by Vickey Pahnke Taylor
Overwrought. Exhausted. Maybe underappreciated. Crabby. Frustrated because things don't go the way we had planned. Sad because we can't reach this person, or influence that one. I can't think of anyone who hasn't felt these feelings at one time or another, while serving in different callings in the Church.
When I was called to be Young Women president for the first time, I thought I'd have a coronary. What did I know, as a young mom of a small child, about the Young Women program? Having just joined the Church at the age of 17, I had no real experience with the activities of the whole thing. I felt too young and too inexperienced.
There's nothing like the dance of fire to get you going. Little by little, I settled into that wonderful calling. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Not all my callings have gone that way, though. Just ask a group of grown men who had me as their den leader when they were Cub Scouts. It's possible I was the worst den leader in the history of den leaders. Those poor boys! One of them was my son.
Taffy-pulling became an exercise in sad frustration as my group of boys ended up with a muddy- looking substance, sticky and gross. The other leader's group happily made beautifully crafted candy. Sigh. Craft activities were an exercise in frustration for me. I guess that, if we stood in line to gain particular gifts before our mortal journey, I missed the craft line. Big time.
Near the end of that calling, guess who was ready to run in the opposite direction when den meetings were scheduled? Even as I felt genuinely burnt out, I also felt guilt for doing a poor job.
I learned five valuable lessons, though. And it kept me from ever getting to the burnout stage again. Here they are:
Lesson One: Lean more on the Lord than on self.
Somehow, back in the early days, it seemed I needed to "go and do," growing simply by being in the middle of it all. Slowly, I learned to call more on heavenly help.
I gained a testimony of the grace and goodness available from the Savior, and came to understand the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Lesson Two: I don't do everything well.
I know this in my mind. Nobody does everything well, and that certainly includes me. But it hadn't yet translated into my heart. I was still of the opinion that whatever the calling or job or project at hand, I could whip myself into shape and do a fine job of it. I think they call that "pride."
Oh, how much better it is for us when we simply determine to do the best we can do. It may never be as good as someone else's best, but that's not what matters. The Lord knows the intent of our heart. Although we may be uneven in our delivery of gifts in a calling, the desire to serve with love is always appreciated. Knowing that can take a lot of weight off our shoulders.
Lesson Three: Ask our Father for the help needed.
And be specific in those prayers for help! President Henry B. Eyring taught, "The Lord will guide you by revelation just as He called you. You must ask in faith for revelation to know what you are to do." [General Conference, October 2002.]
We are given some callings - I'd dare say all our callings - as a means of learning and growing. If we don't yet have faith in ourselves, we can exercise our faith in the Master Teacher. He will give us direction as we faithfully, hopefully offer prayers to know specifically how to better ourselves.
Lesson Four: It's not a competition.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that the only competition we should engage in is comparing ourselves today to how we were earlier. Of course some folks excel in one calling while we excel in another. Many of the prophets have felt ill-prepared and insufficient for the job at hand. But I imagine none of them has felt they had to fill the shoes of the one who went before them.
Because we are each unique, we have unique ways of serving and loving. As we identify those ways, we may joyfully offer our little part in the kingdom, without worry of how we're doing compared to Brother or Sister So-and-so.
Lesson Five: Give thanks - often.
When Adam and Eve left the garden, early on they stopped to build an altar and offer prayers of thanksgiving. We see the pattern repeated over and over again in scripture.
How often do we offer thanks when we're feeling really upset over a calling, or just flat out don't like it? I know I'm treading on quaky ground here, but c'monů. sometimes we get tired, or get our feelings hurt, or feel as though we're not measuring up. And those times of doubt provide the perfect moments for taking a deep breath, getting down on our knees, and thanking our Father in Heaven for the chance to learn. We may also want to thank Him for His trust in us - if only as a beautiful way of growing in trust in Him and confidence in ourselves.
Spiritual burnout need not be an option. The ups and downs of interacting with our brothers and sisters is a valuable way of growing in the spirit. Communication may shut down between persons, but when we call upon the Holy Ghost to help us out - and humbly choose to fix the problem - the lines begin to open. And the heart begins to heal as the burden lifts.
These five lessons have helped me get through in times of frustration and upset - almost always with myself. They've graced me with some understandings of how we are taught, and of why we need to have foolish pride ground out of us. It's usually not a pretty process, but it helps us shine more brightly after the lesson is learned. Best of all? We come to know for ourselves that serving is all about the other folks, and not about ourselves, at all.
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