As a psychology student, our lecturers taught us that we could no longer tell our patients that they were experiencing a nervous breakdown. Rather we had to sugar coat and watch our weighty words and instead speak of burnout, which is precisely the same thing as a breakdown. Burnout is a breakdown of the emotions, the body, and the mental state due to prolonged stress and trauma, this results in an intense inability to cope.
I had my first taste of burnout in 2009 and then I had burnout again in 2012. I prefer to call it a nervous breakdown, because that’s what it felt like, a breakdown. A month after I collapsed emotionally, I fell ill and found myself in bed for a few months. A few months that changed my life. I had experienced everything that is on the burn out list, except I had experienced them all at once. Job loss, relocation (from the city to the countryside), I had lost my support systems and I was trying to help my husband through an intense season of depression.
Added to this I was in my master’s year studying Psychology and writing an intensive thesis, I was serving on a charity board, counselling and smiling while being a “pastor’s wife.” Just writing up this list makes me tired and anxious.
But while I was in bed, removed from all these things I would often sit outside on many sleepless nights and stare up at the stars. It was so beautiful and while I sat there quietly wrapped in my blanket I would cry in to God’s arms and feel His warm Love slip over me tangibly. It was in God’s arms where I found the courage to break. I didn’t have to keep it all together anymore, I simply allowed myself the joy of breaking. I learned the secret that David once wrote about, The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
God was my nursing lover who never left my side through that painful time and as He nursed me physically with the promise of healing, He nursed me emotionally and spiritually as well. He took the bandages off some really wrongly bandaged wounds and taught me how to listen, to listen to myself. He taught me about boundaries and how to establish strong, healthy Godly boundaries. He taught me how to stand firm and the closer I drew to God in those months, the closer I drew to myself and to the image of God within me.
Through my burn out I became more whole. The one thing God really did teach me was about the value and the love He has for me. I had a theological understanding of my worth and value to God, most people do but it was never truly real to me. Through my nights of deepest anxiety and brokenness, He knit me together with the duct tape of Heaven’s eternal value. He gave me a crown, both spiritually and naturally (I was sent a crown in the post, no jokes!) and today I walk around with the assurety that I am a princess and not a pauper.
During those months there was a movie quote that greatly encouraged me in that leg of my journey. It is from the South African movie Tornado and the Kalahari Horse whisperer. It says “it takes pain to heal the pain, Tornado (the horse) doesn’t need you all shiny and perfect, he just needs you and that is enough.”
God wants me and you, not perfect, just ourselves. He longs for us to go over and sit with Him on a water tower far above the maddening crowd and enjoy the sunset of life with Him. He wants to loop His arm around you and that’s enough. God didn’t want me to pain but He took my pain and healed pain through it.
I am more aware of myself today and I have so many factors in place now and every promise that God gave me in that season, He fulfilled in due time. I even completed my Master’s degree through the burn out and that was a miracle in itself. Losing my job prompted me to join the ministry with my husband and we were ordained together in the same year.
So precious sister, God knows and He doesn’t want you perfect. He just wants you and He knows how you keep on going, how you keep on serving soup with those perfectly manicured nails but underneath lies a weary heart. He has you, let Him lead you and one day, maybe soon or maybe in a while, together we can turn around and bless the fields the locusts tried to eat. Because they are going to explode and produce a harvest of crops that will release depth of delight in to your heart!
Psalm 126: 5 – 6
“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy
They will weep as they got o plant their seed but they will sing as
they return with the harvest.”
Through my nights of deepest anxiety and brokenness, He knit me together with the duct tape of Heaven’s eternal value. Where have you seen Heaven’s duct tape? Where could you use some right about now?
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