The Process of Undoing

Today, I’m mourning something. I think I’ve been depriving myself of something over the past few years, and I wonder how many others are doing the same.

I’m ending my 5th year of Undergraduate school so soon. Looking back, I am burdened by how difficult it has been to get here. I’ve been saying the words, “I just can’t wait to be done with school” since before I even began. Without fail, each semester I come to a point of utter frustration at my lack of fulfillment in the life of a student. Through some combination of loving reminders from people around me, pure ignorance, and ultimately God’s hand, I’ve pushed through.

In this final semester though, this moment of frustration has stuck around. I think I’ve stopped trying to lie to myself that I like being a student, and finally let myself just feel that this process of education as been difficult. There are tears. There is anger. There is sadness. There is anticipation. There is mourning. I have never felt so tired, so worn-down.

Honestly, I’m not sure it was worth it.

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I sometimes feel guilty, put-down, and angry because I want to get all my crap together and stop whining about it. I see others who are “doing” so much more than I and are succeeding and flourishing in it. When I compare my life to others, I see that I have never faced much opposition in striving to follow my dreams. I’ve grown up in a loving home. I’ve known Jesus all my life. I’ve lived in a well-off community. I’m married to the most amazing and supportive man. Why should someone like me have a hard time, right?

But if I give myself the freedom to not compare myself other others, I see that something much deeper is going on.

I’ve forgotten what makes my soul flourish.

I’ve forgotten how to rest.

I’ve forgotten how to love.

I’ve forgotten who God really is.

I’ve forgotten who I am.

I’ve forgotten what I have to offer. 

I’ve forgotten the value of friendship. 

I’ve been absolutely consumed. With things to do, ministries I’m required to be a part of, transitioning into new communities, commuting, working random jobs, and doing life responsibilities and obligations. And at the same time, figuring out who I am, what I believe in, and where I want to go next.

As my schedule gets continually crammed, my conviction gets deeper. When I reflect on my college years, I get angry at myself for letting my education turn into, truly, a life ruled by busyness. I’ve lost myself in this process of education. In fact, I struggle to even remember what I like to do in my spare time, because I never gave myself “spare time.” Today, spare time turns sour quickly because my brain is too exhausted to think, create, or read. My body feels too tired to want to go out and do anything.

Because I haven’t taken care of myself well over the last few years, I now find myself struggling for relief from the lasting consequences.

I ran myself into the ground. The warning signs of burn-out are all here. Sleeping more at night (10+ hours). Simple tasks became major, energy-draining projects. Any motivation to be social was squelched. I became jealous for personal time and I never felt like I had enough. My patience ran out quickly. Mentally distant from work or class. From the moment I woke up, I would review everything I had to do that day until I would be able to climb back into bed again later that night. The list goes on.

At the end of this summer, I came to a point where I was so over it. I recognized what had happened, and knew this was not the life I wanted to live. I decided to slow down. I quit my job, registered for less classes, and gave myself a break. I wanted a more balanced life, but had no idea how to start the process of overcoming this burnout.

Now that several months have passed, I think I’m seeing progress. I still have no idea what the “3-step plan for overcoming burnout” is, but it’s been my own personal journey.

I’m learning that God calls us into the simple. The quiet. The still. This doesn’t mean our lives won’t be busy, but it does mean we need to balance them. While I still have all the same obligations (work, school, ministry, internship, etc.), I’m learning to approach them differently. I’m taking steps to be more aggressive in saying no. I’m remembering to take time for myself — like reading an entire novel on Saturday morning instead of stressing out over school papers. Drinking coffee on the patio instead of fretting over finances. Catching up on my favorite TV show instead of pretending to study. I’ve adjusted a lot of my expectations to what I can handle. I don’t do as much as I could for school or ministry, but that’s okay.

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This process of undoing is so messy, friends. All of my emotions are bubbling to the surface and I have to actually face them. I can’t ignore them, organize them, or make them seem pretty. They just are. When we numb ourselves to feelings like grief, shame, anger, or fear, we also keep ourselves from experiencing the fullness of joy, peace, hope, excitement, and love. We become lifeless.

In an effort to grow, I’m walking confidently into this mess. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know where it will go. I don’t know how hard it will be or how long it will last. But while I unwind my stone heart, I know that my soul will look- straight up- chaotic.

I think that’s sanctification.

I trust that as I unwind and slowly deal with the crap that shows itself, God will continually heal and redeem what’s been so disfigured. I trust that he’ll lead me towards the next area of growth, to sanctify me more into his image.

Even though I feel so angry about so many things, and I want to either full-on panic or fight it, I trust that God is big enough, patient enough, loving enough, kind enough, graceful enough, and close enough to walk with me through it and help clean it from my soul.

So when people ask me about what I’m planning to do when I graduate in a few weeks, all I can think of REST. Practicing prayer. Giving more. Loving better. Growing deeper. Creating more. Dreaming bigger. Pursuing harder.  Letting Christ be my center, my hope, and my anchor.

I have no idea what that will be like. And I’m so excited.

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