The season of lying fallow has been strange.
On one end, an intentional pulling back from writing, made easy by, on the other, the evaporation of the little drops of free time by a new intense season at work. In all of this the gentle whisper continuing, ‘Listen to me.’
The work season has been difficult with trying to balance winding up with my Grade 8 kids in Bridges Academy, the school for Afghan refugee kids that my institution has been involved in networking and founding, getting back to regular language classes in LIFE Education Language School where I work, and training new teachers that we’ve taken on board. The result has been a sense of saturation, of being hemmed in I haven’t felt for a long time, and a reluctance to go to class, that to me is always the first sign of a coming burn-out down the line.
This coming right at the time when Lydia my wife, was offered a full-fledged class teacher’s post, an answer to prayer and a long dream for her of mine for many years, has made the season a strange one of joy, expectation and exhaustion, sort of like, as I commented on a blog post, ‘freeze-frying’. Not a wonderful thing emotionally.
I’ve also been plagued by longings for greenery, space and quiet, which make me suck up the sight of anything green and flowering in the city, and I’m thankful for many of these in the midst of the hostile city environment, in spite of scenes like in the photo below that I took from our terrace space in the building.
It was a scene that looked like a normal, beautiful sunset with palm trees, except that they weren’t palm trees, and the camera did something to the sun that quite matches with how I’ve felt, over the last few days – saturated by the city and the crass sound of human overactivity, boastful and ostentatious.
Today I just had to take a break from work. The weekend was exhausting, busy with cooking and housework, and the morning did what J.P. Donleavy describes in one of his books in the words, ‘Today came crashing down.’ It was oppressive. I felt sluggish, like a lane of office-hour traffic, and unwell and thankfully was able to take the day off after calling and letting Dan, our managing director, know what was happening. I called friends and asked for prayer, and my pastor took the trouble of spending time on the phone with me, coming alongside and praying through.
Then in the quiet of my room, I was able to take it to God, express the feelings, read Scripture, make the choice to believe what I was reading, and rest in Him.
And in the evening, the return of my lovely wife and daughter. Lydia back from her first day of a new season as a homeroom teacher, tired but excited, and Hannah back from her first day of the new quarter. Stories, noise, hungry stomachs. It felt like it was all coming back to normal, except for the lurking feeling of saturation that tells me that it’s far from over and to be watchful against demotivation and loss of passion. In my experience, any symptom of impending burnout, needs to be dealt with unhurriedly and carefully, expressing the feelings to God openly and honestly, without being harried by distractions, and making choices that keep relationships and time with God intact.
In today’s reading with my family, we read from Jeremiah 6:16, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths, ‘Which one is the good way?’ Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Again a choice! One based on what was from the beginning, and that is unchanging: and that is the bottomline that God is completely in control, that He has a very good purpose in place that He is working out in us with deep, concerned love, that His presence in our life makes everything we do greatly meaningful and powerful, that His power is made perfect in our weakness and that it is, many times over, worth doing what He is leading us to do.
As Psalm 34:5 says, ‘Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.’
It seems, overcoming our circumstances and situations, only gain their context looking to God in the midst of them.