last night i wrote a post that sounded a lot like the beginnings of ‘burn out’- that state of emotional and spiritual and physical exhaustion that can happen with prolonged stress or struggle. that state that often reveals itself as lack of motivation- the inability to accomplish and the strong feeling that you are in fact, accomplishing nothing. and it spirals into those questions: who am i? why am i here anyway? what am i doing? why did i ever think this was a good idea? and finally when can i go?
i must back up and say that this feels very silly to write because i don’t look at our life and see a tremendous amount of stress- especially compared to those around us. i look at our life and see a lot of goodness and much to be thankful for and a whole lot of blessing. we now almost always have electricity. we have running water in our house. we are generally healthy. we have enough food and never go hungry. we even have chocolate and starbucks instant coffee. i mean really- what is there to complain about?
i think it’s the cumulative other things.
this morning mike and i spent a lot of time together reading some verses and mostly talking and then finally praying a brief prayer that went something like- ‘help kris today – give her spirit strength’ for which i was profoundly grateful.
mike reminded me that while all the above are true- we are so fortunate and not in need physically- there are things that we don’t have here- that our ugandan friends do have. they have their extended families- they have the village that they grew up in and can escape to for holidays- they have their support systems- they are living in their own culture- they are anonymous- they aren’t starred at- no one shouts ‘muzungu’ at them when they walk- people they don’t know don’t come to their door asking for sponsorship. every. day. they live in their place- with their people.
and we don’t.
one of my ugandan friends yesterday made two comments that accidentally made me feel so foreign and alone. ” you white people always……” and “an african would never do that.” i can’t even remember what was being talked about- but it felt so bad. i felt so helplessly different. i felt so alone and removed and sad- but the truth is- i am not african nor will i ever be- no matter how long i am here. the truth is, i am white, and always will be. the truth is, i am american, and always will be. these are the facts. i have chosen to live in a place that is foreign to me.
last night i found myself googling ‘missionary burn-out’. it talked about signs and symptoms and prevention strategies- things that are obvious but easy to forget- take breaks, eat lunch, leave work at work, take vacation.
mike and i realized that we haven’t been away for a weekend alone, with out the kids, in over a year. we began to look into options and get excited, but they also all looked so expensive. i kept thinking- yeah that place looks great! we could do it, or…. we could pay someones rent for the YEAR! i began to feel that my ‘break’ wasn’t important enough- that the disparity was too loud- that life was just so unfair and i couldn’t be part of it.
this morning mike pointed out our cumulative stress. he pointed out that there will always be a sense of living in two worlds here- that we are always going to struggle with this balance- but. he said we needed to go away. he said ‘book it.’ period. he said if we don’t take care of ourselves we won’t be here to pay anyone’s rent and the bigger question is why would we pay their rent anyway? he said that we came here to help support people and educate and mentor them, so that they can pay their rent. he said that what we are doing is hard.
i said that i was wondering if a better way was to do like some of my friends who fly in for 10 days and fix lots of kids hearts or lips or legs surgically and teach ugandan doctors while they are here and then fly home.
he said what they are doing is great- but they are coming into a system that is already set up and we are trying to set up systems. we are on the ground, looking at what is broken or not available, and trying to fix or build it. he said it takes longer- it’s way more frustrating- it’s about relationship building- and our ‘results’ can be harder to measure. he said what we are doing is important and lasting and as we teach planning and setting up and fixing- then we enable more ugandans to pay their own rent and know when to biopsy lumps, and operate on the hearts and legs of their people, and build and create and dream and believe and be empowered.
right. of course.
i love this man.
when he went for work- i walked up monkey hill to listen to God. i wanted to hear what i’d ‘get’ to give my spirit strength beside the wise words of my man. and She delivered – i got isaiah 40:13-
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.
there will be seasons of walking, and of running and even of soaring. i am tired yes, but i’m walking, and i’m even running and i can’t wait to be back to soaring.