Friday, September 6, 2013

Burn Out

Whether you are a missionary on deputation, on furlough, or on the field, your life is busy. (Maybe that is an understatement.)

I remember one furlough. The children were both school age, and we had scheduled five missions conferences, one after the other, in several different states. The only “free time” was the necessary time on the road. By the fifth conference, I was very sick. We had been trying to keep up with homeschooling. (Maybe we should call it “van-schooling.” I was trying to teach backwards while rolling down the highway. My husband joked that he understood sixth grade math very well!) We arrived at the final conference after two full days of travel, on time and ready for anything—or so I thought.

I had no voice. We enjoyed a beautiful kick-off banquet in the gym and went into the church for the evening service. The pastor asked from the pulpit, “Sister Keiser, do you sing?” (They tell you a missionary is supposed to be able to “preach, pray, or die” at any time, but I think they should add “sing, teach, play the piano, and homeschool.”) I’m no soloist, so I replied, “I sing with the family.” Within minutes, our family quartet was on stage and belting out a missions song in both English and Spanish—well, most of us, since I couldn't sing any better than I could talk. Our daughter sang lead; so all was semi-okay. Near the end of that service, the pastor announced, “Tomorrow night, Sister Keiser will be teaching our ladies.”

When the ladies gathered in the appointed space, I realized for the first time that the “ladies” were from age three to ninety-three! Okay, be flexible. Think on your feet. How can you include the little ones? Plus, I still had no voice. I prayed one of my really profound prayers,
                                                                                                             “Lord, HELP!!!!”

He did, and I was blessed, even if no one else was. Even the little kids listened well, and we got through it. “Thank you, Lord!”

At our next destination, I crashed—emotionally, physically, you name it—crashed! I was not worth anything for about 24 hours. I felt as though I had been run over by a truck—an eighteen-wheeler—several times.

I have always questioned some of the missions songs we sing. For example, “Let me burn out for Thee, dear Lord,
Burn and wear out for Thee.
Don’t let me rust . . .
Until I burn out for Thee.”*

Does God really want us to wear out, burn out, and ultimately completely crash out? Are we supposed to serve and serve and serve and not have time to think, pray, meditate, and get close to the Lord? Are we really meant to hit our mission field running and keep running until we cannot run? What about our husband, children, family times?

Tough, isn’t it?

We have the biblical answer in one of my favorite passages, Luke 10:38-40. It is the well-known story of Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha. Martha cooked and complained, and Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word (verse 39b). Jesus called Mary’s choice that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (verse 42b).

Jesus also said, one thing is needful (verse 42a).

Think of it: both Mary and Martha had the opportunity to hear the Word of God, in person, from the mouth of their Messiah! Mary took that opportunity while Martha banged around in the kitchen, huffing and puffing about how Mary was not helping.

Jesus said one thing was needful. He did not say that it wasn't important to have dinner. He did not criticize Martha’s making a good meal. He said that His Word was most needful.

You have the demands of husband, children, homeschooling, Sunday school class, young people’s activities, and women’s meetings. You clean the church, pass out tracts, and try to keep your house in a semblance of order. You entertain guests and cook “from scratch.” You feed groups of hungry young people, organize, and plan. You do laundry for your large family and any guests you may have. You might be your husband’s secretary and write prayer letters . . . . Are we tired yet?

We have the Word of God at our fingertips. It isn't exactly the same as having Jesus in your living room, but it is still His Word, Person to person, just as it was with Mary and Martha. It is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is a living book. It ministers to your soul. God actually speaks in Person to you.

Are you taking the time to sit at Jesus’ feet? Are you listening to Him? Are you worshiping Him? Are you pouring your heart out in prayer?

“Oh, Sister,” you might say, “I am a missionary. Why are you writing this to me?”

I am a missionary, too. I understand the effort it takes to have a daily time with the Lord, especially when the kids are small and you are homeschooling. You have to “make” time to get to know God. Then, you really enjoy sitting at His feet. You become like Mary.

Wherewithal shall a young man (or missionary woman of any age) cleanse his (her) way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word (Psalm 119:9-16).

May we all choose that good part. It will not be taken away from us.

*I realize that this song also holds lots of good doctrine and true missionary zeal. I only have problems with the idea of burning out. You never see that in the Bible.


Charity said...

A big, wholehearted, fully persuaded AMEN to this post! I want to consistently be a "one thing" Christian like Mary. Thank for sharing!

Carole said...

Great Post! Those last verses is the passage we are learning together here as a church family.

Jen said...

Great post. Thank you for the much needed reminder! I agree about burning out. We don't read of Christ burning out.

Joyful said...

Great post!

Heather ♥ {Missionary Mama} said...

Thank you for sharing these words of wisdom and experience...How true they are!

Steve Dwire said...

Thank you for writing this, Lou Ann. I remember hearing my mother say, "Whether you rust out or burn out - either way, you're out!" We don't run marathons the same way we run sprints. I've scheduled Edify Hub's Facebook page and Twitter feed to share a link to this post on Monday. It's an excellent reminder.