Burning out or burning up?

I didn’t write a sermon this week.

We had a guest speaker from Operation Christmas Child this morning, so the story about the Sadducees trying to trap Jesus into admitting that resurrection was a ridiculous idea didn’t cause me to lose sleep or fret over how it could possibly apply to my congregation.

Instead, I caught up on paperwork and filing. I spent 8 hours in the car, driving to and from the nearest Genius Bar (twice) to resolve a computer issue, and rediscovered the healing peace of solitary driving.  When you’re on the road, there isn’t anything else you can be doing but think. The freedom from constant multi-tasking, the freedom from feeling guilty because I’m not doing more, the freedom to simply drive, think, and pray – these are blessings. I took time to really listen to some folks who needed to have someone listen to them. I read. I cooked dinner for my husband, who usually cooks dinner for me. I had a pretty good, relaxing week.

In the middle of it, my husband and I went to a restaurant for a late meal after an evening meeting at church. As we waited for our food to arrive, the conversation turned to that new hot-button topic in ministry circles: self-care. And Bruce said something that struck me as deeply profound.

There’s a difference between burning out and burning up, he said. Burn-out is when the flame dies within you, but burning up is when the flame consumes you, using up all your “fuel.” When the passion is gone, you’ve burned out.  When you still have passion for what you do, but you’ve exhausted your inner resources to do it, you’ve burned up.  Burning up requires gathering more fuel to keep the flame alive.  Burning out requires kindling a new flame.

Dear God, help me to keep the flame alive that you have kindled in me. Let me always be mindful of my complete dependence on you for the fuel needed to keep that flame burning brightly. Let me never burn out, growing cold to your grace. Keep me alert to the need to stop what I’m doing every once in a while, to gather more fuel for the fire. Amen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.