May I Be Transparent?: Knowing When to Rest
I normally do my “May I Be Transparent” blog posts in May around Sowfull’s anniversary but it feels appropriate to do one now.
Sometimes life gets challenging. We face seasons, experiences, and tasks that are hard. And sometimes, being the humans we are living this human experience, we face extreme stress and burnout.
Anyone who has been following me any length of time has read/seen/heard me talk about mental health and burnout, and even if you’ve just joined in this year, you’ve seen me share a specific podcast episode a plethora of times.
That Podcast episode is entitled, "Burnout and the Theology of Rest" by hosts Kevin "KB" Burgess and Ameen Hudson. It is from Season 4 of their podcast, Southside Rabbi.
I love that podcast because of how real, honest, open and relatable KB and Ameen are, but this episode in particular from season 4, resonates with me on a deeper level because it really speaks to me in this place I find myself - a place that the Church doesn’t often speak on - being tired, stressed and burnt out.
In their podcast, they also share a clip from a pastor, Pastor James Gailliard of Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount, NC.
The clip and what they shared about what he disclosed in his statement touched me so greatly, I had to go and find the clip to watch it in its entirety for myself.
Most recently, I have found myself playing and replaying the podcast episode and Pastor Gaillard’s video over and over in my down time from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep because it helps encourage me that I’m not the only one who has reached this place before.
I want to share some of what was said in the podcast episode and video that resonated with me, as well as share an announcement at the end, so stick with me.
In the podcast, KB talks about “the controversy of 7/11.” He is referring to how in Matthew 7 Jesus talks about the way to life being narrow and few people finding it and then 4 chapters later speaks on how His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Which one is it? KB says he believes the answer is, “the narrowness of the path is often as burdensome as our inability to find rest in Jesus.” That’s a loaded statement isn’t it?
What I believe KB is saying is this, the path is narrow, it is. There is no changing its width, but the burden Christ says is light, and sometimes it becomes heavy for us because we neglect to rest IN HIM. I emphasize “in Him” because sometimes we seek “rest” in all the wrong places and wonder why we still come up feeling empty and tired. (That’s a blog post for another day. I’ve already written it but I’ma hold on to it for a minute. Subscribe so you don’t miss it.) But yes, the burden becomes heavy when we don’t continually rest in Jesus - from Whom we draw our strength.
Ameen joins in sharing how, “you can get caught up serving others” and doing things in the church, ministry, etc. “which is very good…and not recognize the ways in which rest is slipping away from you.” Whew. When we’re doing a good thing, sometimes we intentionally ignore the signs that we need to slow down or pause, because we feel it’s just the flesh talking - trying to get us off track.
Then we wonder why we start to snap at others, why our empathy is waning, as Ameen said, why we are often sleepy, easily offended, don’t feel as connected to God or don’t hear God like we used to.
In the video of Pastor Gailliard, he shares how he has been going strong for so long but “something’s kind of shifted for me…I’m spent now. I don’t have anything left.” He goes on to share signs he noticed that let him know there was a change and it was time for a change. He states, “I used to have good days and bad days; now I just have days.” When he goes to bed and gets up, he says, “I’m as tired as I was when I went to sleep because I feel like I spent the whole night fighting in my spirit.”
All of this hit me hard. I have really been exerting and overexerting in multiple areas of my life (personally, professionally, etc). I finally reached a point this week where I just felt spent. I truly had nothing left. In addition to personal life tasks and responsibilities, and the constant feeling that I need to write for Sowfull and put out content, I’m a therapist at a community mental health clinic during a period of time when many are struggling mentally AND there’s a shortage of staff. As Pastor Gailliard stated in his video, I love what I’m called to do and understand what comes with that call. I am totally okay with that. I knew going into the field that burnout rates were high and that therapy is mentally, emotionally and physically taxing/draining. However, I have reached a point of being burnt out and I must acknowledge and respect that. In the words of Pastor Gailliard, “I want to finish strong, y’all.”
With everything going on in life, I find myself always tired. Where I used to wake up around 5am ready to go, I’m snoozing the alarm over and over until 6:45 and then only getting up because I absolutely have to at this point or I’ll be late for my commitments. My sleep isn’t sweet anymore, I’m easily irritated, frustrated, and as the pastor put it “I don’t heal fast anymore.” I don’t move past slights like I used to, I take offense quicker, I’ve been feeling more negative than positive and hold onto things far longer than I should or usually would. I should not be like this.
Though your life looks different from mine, I’m sure there are those of you out there who relate to this.
Whether a leader in church or another sector...
**DON’T LEAD PAST THE GRACE THAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU!**
Give yourself permission to rest!! In fact, insist that you rest!
God didn’t need rest BUT He took it to set an example for us TO FOLLOW (not just read and teach about).
Ameen put it well when he spoke about how agriculturally speaking, we pull from the land season after season but then there comes a period where you can’t draw from that patch of land for a while because all of the nutrients are gone. He states, “let the land freaking rest…so it can start producing for you again and you can reap some more. It’s like God has this idea of rest in everything. What makes you think He does not have this idea of sabbath in you?” He continues and says, “sabbath not just being a day; you might need seasons of it.”KB at that point chimes in and adds, “and regular rhythms of it.”
“You need time to regrow! If you don’t have time of people not taking from you, how are you going to have anything for them to take later on?? You’re giving it all away and then you’re left barren. And then you’re leading out of your barrenness and you wonder why you’re feeling like you have nothing left to give; because you don’t!”
“It is tantamount to blasphemy, bro, to think that God needs to rest and you don’t. It’s arrogance, it’s pride, it’s ego, it’s Messiah complex.”
As Ameen points out in the podcast, the servant is not greater than the Master. If God rested and Jesus often withdrew, why do we feel we can’t, and even that we shouldn’t rest? It’s as if we feel Jesus could take a break but God forbid that we do.
“The thing that you should not be taking a break from is hearing from Him (God) and praying to Him.”
The only thing we aren't to take a break from is praying and communing with God. We don’t have to always be a biblical scholar/theologian finding the deepest revelation to share next, a Christian Influencer, content creator or makeshift savior in people’s lives - actually we should never be this last one. There’s only one Savior and His Name is Jesus.
“Most of us don’t know how to stop and then we’re blowing past the red flags that say that we should stop.”
KB talked about the need to have therapy for the soul. We need places where we’re not there to contribute but to receive. We need breaks from the things that alert and alarm us.
“There was a joy promised to me that could only be accessed through rest.”
The two podcast hosts close out their episode sharing some tips to help create rhythms of rest:
Have a daily diversion
This is something you can do each day that helps you decompress, relax and recharge.
Once a week, go do something.
I always tell my clients it’s a great idea to have a hobby or activity you love and do that isn’t tied to production, productivity, perfection or profit. Have something you do just for the fun and joy of it.
KB and Ameen encourage having a vacation once a year to just escape and replenish. This doesn’t have to be a trip to Turk and Caicos. This can be a trip down to Myrtle Beach for the weekend. Just something special once a year to get away.
“...Christians have been under developed in our ability to enjoy the world...As you’re having fun, you’re enjoying God if you’re doing it with thanksgiving in your heart, honoring Him for what He’s made.”
“One of the ways to show that work is not your god is by resting. Even those we love and look up to, we can make gods out of them as well. Sometimes you got to tell them “no!” It gives us more capacity for the Presence and power of God in our lives.”
Pastor Gailliard closed his statement by saying, “I’m spending so much time doing everything else; I need some time to spend with God” and he shared with his church what his next steps were to improve his state.
Now I’m sharing this with you all…
The last two years have been transitional for me as God has been preparing and taking me to what He’s promised, but it has also been quite stressful for me at times. I have been pulled on more than I ever have and have poured more than I’ve ever had to pour without receiving as much as I needed in order to maintain that pace and flow. It’s just become unsustainable. I’ve been so stressed at times, my hands hurt and my vision went blurry. I can’t ignore these red flags any longer and must make necessary adjustments.
I believe it is imperative that we know when to rest, where to rest and how long and often to rest.
Earlier this year, I knew I needed to take a sabbatical from Sowfull and rest, and I knew/know where to take that rest but I didn’t so much listen as far as how long to rest. I allowed my own unrealistic expectations (and to be honest, the concern that people would forget about Sowfull and walk away) to push me to return before I should have, so I apologize and repent to God for that.
God established Sowfull and will maintain it for as long as He desires, it is not of, never was and never will be of my own strength, ability or doing.
So at this time, I am returning to my sabbatical. I won’t say how long it will be before my return because I don’t know. All I know is that I must let the ground rest. I want to finish strong.
As I navigate this season, I pray that you all keep me in your prayers as I will do the same for you.
And please, check out the podcast and video for yourself to receive the full message they shared. It will bless you.