BKJN Danny makes the case that there are a lot of paths to black belt - that we all have our own road. I’m certainly appreciative of this as my path is unique for sure. Significant to our test, it speaks to the “Ethos” of AHAMA and, as I understand it, the ethos of the Ultimate Black Belt Test which seems to inform the evolution of AHAMA’s testing.
When Danny and I sat down over lunch a few weeks ago to talk about entering the test, he didn’t know that he was throwing me a lifeline. Truth be told, I probably wasn’t fully aware of it either. In my heart, I knew I was struggling a bit; that said, I thought I was just going through the necessary rigors of a long and tough season to get Compassion First to a place of greater health. I didn’t have the full realization (or wasn’t willing to admit) that I was doing so at the expense of my personal health. While I seemed to be in the dark about it, my wife knew it, my kids knew it, and if you pinned any of my co-workers to the wall and made them tell the truth, they knew it too. I was way out of balance and well on the flight path toward a big-time crash and burn.
I’ve watched people go through various levels of burnout over the years and never quite understood it. We actually talk about it quite a bit in ministry circles. Without a lot of detail, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen, experienced, and lived through most levels and/or manner of difficulty, misfortune, and all-out ugliness that being in ministry can throw at a person. I say that realizing that perils as such are not in any way unique to the pastorate - it’s just the path that I’ve walked - I think every professional path, and life in general, provides plenty of difficulty to shovel through. Leaders, in particular, carry heavy burdens as the lives and well-being of others tend to rest on their success or failure. As it goes, I’ve always rumbled through seemed okay. With patent immaturity, I’m certain that I’ve been judgmental towards others in proximity to me who would find themselves in a state of burnout. Most likely, I considered my relative health as a matter of personal constitution. I’m confessing now that I don’t think that way anymore; I’m keenly aware that any point of survival on my part is nothing short of grace; something I count as a matter of a lot of help from God and a lot of help from other people. For me to think otherwise would be the ultimate of arrogance.
Speaking as a layman, of course, burnout is not a mythical condition limited to cohorts of complaining sorts. I know because I’m a bona-fide complainer! Given the opportunity, I’ll expertly complain about anything and everything. I’ve never complained about things like this and I’m not complaining now. I’m actually grateful to know where the lines are. The fact is, we are human and sometimes we find the limits of our capacities. There is a limit to the amount of stress we can take for an extended period of time. There is a limit to the extent that we can run on adrenaline. There is a limit to how long we can go on too little sleep and without genuine rest. There’s a limit to how much emotional turmoil we can sustain along the way. For me, personally, there is the additional violence to the brain that comes from the frequent crossing of multiple time zones. Trust that I’m not complaining about that either, I’m just realistic about the impact.
Our brains and our limbdic systems really are quite amazing. While extremely resilient, they’re not unbreakable. You need only a couple of things to stop working properly before you feel like your life is a full-on dumpster fire.
To be clear, I’m not self-diagnosing here. I’m just saying that I’m learning about my own limitations, perhaps, with some brick wall abruptness as tiredness has set in.
So as for BKJN Danny’s lifeline, I’m considering these things: They are personal to me as matters of life and health; they lend to both feeling well and being well; all of them, in some way, are required by our test. Please forgive where I expand on the obvious:
• I Need to Grow Spiritually. For me, this is the reminder that God loves me. I need that reminder. When I read my Bible, it is not for self-improvement, religious fulfillment, greater knowledge, obligation, or some sense of self-righteousness. It is to be reminded of a love that is bigger than anything I can imagine and, in the simplest of terms, changes everything for me. I’m a simple man: I need to love and be loved! When I know that I’m loved, I’m capable of love.
• I Need to Exercise. In our house we say, “exercise fixes almost everything.” Kymra and I are pretty motivated about this these days. We’re getting into that special age range where the wheels can start to fall off. It’s the age where the doctors start wanting to keep an eye on you. They want to poke at you once a year in humiliating ways in order to tell you what medicines might slow your decline. While not universally so, it is often true that intense exercise can better fix much of what medicine attempts to improve. In fact, it simply makes the clock go backwards. For example, intense exercise is a great inducer of increased HDL cholesterol, a correlating reducer of LDL cholesterol. Exercise is incredibly important for our brains as well, releasing a number of neurotransmitters lending to our overall sense of well-being. When we walk or run we’re engaging both sides of our brain while delivering increased levels oxygen through our bloodstream. Suffice it to say that I’ll be doing plenty of exercise with you all over the next months. I’m really looking forward to it.
• I Need to Write. I wouldn’t have said so back in college when every paper was a late night affair hours before it was due. I’m not speaking of some or even most assignments either; I mean every single paper in my college career! In the last few years, I’ve come to learn that writing is therapeutic for me. I promised Danny plenty of blogs and he has given me great latitude as to subject matter. You’ll see a few along the way.
• I Need to Read. Also a requirement of test. This is actually a piece that I’m way ahead on!
• I Need to be Among Loved Ones. And, I count all of you among those, for sure. Some say that you either get your batteries charged in solitude or you get them charged by being among others. For me it is equally both. I appreciate that the next months will include a number of growing friendships.
Spiritually, Mentally, Physically,