Overloading Our Souls

“We too often view our spirituality through our individualistic lens.”

This is what a friend recently told me as we talked about spiritual expectations in our community.

Is spiritual burnout always a product of our own negligence for self-care? Or does it also come from continuously living in an unhealthy community. I think it’s a balance of both.

2014-05-23 10.59.14For the past three years, I’ve lived in a spiritually dense community at Bible school. On any given week, you will have 3-4 chapel times. On average 5-6 Bible, theology, or major-specific classes that involve Christianity. A required church ministry involvement. Church on Sunday. Small groups on the dorm floor. Small groups on your brother/sister floor. Small groups with your married friends. Small groups in your church. Thursday night praise service. Wednesday night prayer service. Tuesday-Saturday morning evangelism walks. Plus books upon books upon books to read for papers and other assignments.  And anywhere you turn – classrooms, libraries, dorm floors, dorm rooms, the coffee shop, the game room, the student hang-out spaces, the plaza, the grass lawns, the gym – you will find theological conversations happening. I guarantee it.

I wish that I could look at that list and be excited about the opportunities for growth available to me. But honestly, it’s overwhelming for my soul.

There is a vein of students here who love, love, love having this many opportunities to grow in their faith. As I’ve watched them over the past few years, I see that they never grow tired of more prayer, more studying, more opportunities for worship, more opportunities for evangelism and saving the world. I listen to them beg leadership teams to start more of these opportunities because they feel like there is not enough here.

Maybe I’m just a terrible Christian.

2015-02-05 11.48.43

But I just don’t understand how they are always excited to pray, to worship, to study, to do anything and everything spiritual 100% of the time. Don’t they get tired of turning everything into “spiritual opportunities?” Isn’t there more to life than just being constantly involved in prayer groups, study, evangelism groups, classes, theological debates, or mission trips?

Please hear me – I am not saying that Christians should not seek those opportunities for growth, maturity, or training. Absolutely not. I am not saying that these are bad.

But I am saying that sometimes we can marry our consumerism with our spirituality and think that it’s what we’re suppose to do. But as we try to churn the two together, we end up with a skewed view of what it means to be a spiritual being, a human who fully worships God.

If we truly believe that Christ is present in all things, and that we were created to worship God, then I don’t think everything has to turn into a “spiritual opportunity.” Every conversation doesn’t have to end in theological debate. Every social gathering doesn’t have to involve a time of worship and prayer. Every book doesn’t need to be Christian. Every TV show doesn’t have to be about religion. We shouldn’t cast away created art, music, video, etc. that doesn’t have overtly Christian tones. There’s so much to learn outside of our small community! There’s so much to be challenged by and to express worship through.

To be honest, I still fight feelings of guilt. Feelings of being a “lesser than Christian” because I choose to be involved in less prayer groups and worship services on campus. I am so thankful that because I have a part-time job, I only go to 1 chapel a week. I am so thankful that because I am married and live off-campus, I am involved in 80% less conversations about theological issues. I choose to be less engaged in my classes for the sake of clinging to the last, dear threads of my spiritual health.

It breaks my heart to see the expectations of students here. There is so much pressure. People get upset when you watch secular shows like New Girl, The Office, or the Bachelorette. People don’t like it when you blare Hip Hop or Pop that’s not by Christian artists. Students who wear brand-name clothes get labeled as being too frivolous with their money. And don’t you dare read a book besides the Bible or a book about the Bible. Or take a vacation instead of using that money to save orphans in a 3rd-world country. Or buy coffee instead of giving that money to the homeless. Or eat out, ever, instead of serving in a food shelter.

I think I’ve cracked under the pressure. I get so deeply angry at these expectations. What a terrible way to live. In a constant state of guilt. In a constant state of trying to perform for God. In a constant state of feeling low, feeling like not enough, feeling helpless for the world.

Don’t you know that you were created to enjoy life? Don’t you know that you can worship God with everything that you do?

So lately, I choose less. I choose to be less engaged in this unhealthy spiritual community. Because if I engaged any more, I think it would push me very far over the edge of anger and rebellion towards Christianity. I recognize the bitterness and anger in my heart already. So, I need to take time away from this place. I need time off. I need to “do” less spirituality. For the sake of healing. For the sake of rest. For the sake of being healthy.

I wish I had known where I was headed. I wish I could have avoided it, somehow. And lastly, I hope and pray that within Christian communities, we can be realistic in our expectations for each other and in ministry.

Have you ever felt burned out in ministry or felt overwhelmed by how Christians sometimes approach spiritual growth? Share your experience below!

Advertisements

I Am Not Enough

Lately, I find myself wanting to test and break every rule I’ve ever come to follow and believe. Because, well, why should I do something just because someone told me to? I know this seems pretty foolish, and it probably is. Whether it’s out of anger, or curiosity, or rebellion, it’s been refining me to the point of breaking me. For the better.

Over the past year, God has been taking the things that I’ve known all my life and impressing them onto my soul. The things I’ve learned from growing up in the church (Sunday school, awanas, youth group, bible studies, etc.) were all cognitively understood, but they had not made their way into my being. Into my heart. Into my actions.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Up until recently, I thought I knew that God loved me unconditionally. But through a lot of reflection, I’m realizing that I have been consistently trying and doing to gain God’s love. I thought, if I only knew more about the Old Testament. If only I knew more about what is doctrine vs. dogma. If only I knew more how Israel relates to the Church today. If only I could spend more time reading my bible. If only I spent more time in prayer. If only I were in more small groups. If only I were smarter, a faster reader, had a better memory.

 

Then, what? I thought if I could just do, know, and be all of those things, then I would be growing. Then I would be healthy. Then I would be a good Christian. Then God would love me and approve of me. Then others would accept me. Then I wouldn’t look stupid. Then others would think I’ve got it all together. Then….

What I didn’t know in my soul is that God has already chosen me. God has already redeemed me. God has already been loving me. I’ve been working so hard to put limitations, rules, and guards around my life for how I should be living, when truly, God, from before the beginning, has been holding me in his loving hands and telling me “I love you, Megan Rose.”

No qualifications needed. Tears spring to my eyes when I reflect on all the times I haven’t lived in this truth. And I have to laugh at myself for over-complicating God’s love for me. God is love. In fact, Jesus, being fully God, took on our humanity and died. For me. For you. In order that we might be brought into the living reality of God the Father, Son, and Spirit. We are literally heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. We are His adopted children, with full rights in his family. We live and walk and breathe and act in this truth whether we realize it or not!

This crumbles everything I’ve ever thought about who God is. It crumbles everything I know about being Christ-like. This year, God is rebuilding a theology of hope, redemption, and reconciliation in my soul. He’s reminding me of the simple. God is love. In Christ, I have hope. I am His. I am redeemed.

As I’ve sought counseling during this time, a theme of “I am not [insert anything here] enough” has been pouring out of me. For example, I am not enough for my job, I am not enough for my marriage, I am not enough for my friends, I am not enough for my family, I am not enough for my classes, I am not enough…

My counselor has been pushing me to answer the question, “What is the opposite of ‘I am not enough’?” If you weren’t “not enough” what would you be? And I’ve been SO confused at how to begin answering this question because it feels so backwards. It feels opposite of our culture. It makes me reel because no one thinks like that. We’ve been subconsciously convinced that we can be enough for everyone and everything. And there’s this untold lie that we have to be hard on ourselves. It’s what we do. And it’s what I’ve been doing.

For three weeks, I weighed this question in my mind and soul. Do I need to be enough for anyone? Isn’t Christ enough? What makes me feel like I’m not enough? If I were enough, what would happen? What does “enough” even mean, really? Am I trying to fill God’s shoes? If I’m not enough, what is? If I’m not trying to be enough, what would happen? What am I really looking for, striving for, expecting? 

My answer came at a pretty unexpected time. At the end of a church service a few weeks ago, they played a video that said:

“Bring your tired
Bring your shame
Bring your guilt
Bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not your name
You will always be much more to me

Everyday I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

Cause I hear a voice and he calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world”

And in that moment, I pictured God looking at me, and telling me, “This is what I say about you. You don’t need to be enough. You can’t be enough.” The world, broken and full of sin, pulls us into the lie to we need to be more than we are. We are broken, bruised, and searching for answers. Blatantly or subtly, we try to make others fulfill our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. And I’ve believed that I could fulfill all of those needs in other people. But the truth is, I can’t. I just can’t. I don’t need to be enough, because God is the answer to our brokenness! That chasm of emptiness I see in our world that I feel like needs to be filled is right where Christ steps in. He is our hope, not me. He is my hope, and nothing less. Christ is enough. Not me.