Last fall, I left the nonprofit where I’d worked and served for eight years. It was a completely unexpected decision. Just two months prior to writing my resignation, I’d told several people, “I finally found my career”. This was a monumental statement for a former teen mom who worked jobs in every field (or so my kids like to joke) in her three decades of employment. I felt situated – a brand new feeling.
More than that, my job was situated. I’d been hired for roles that were new to the organization, so much of my work was building strategies and plans that were finally running smoothly. I’d developed relationships with funders who finally knew who we were. I’d created a library of trainings and tools that streamlined our team’s work. Leaving felt foolish. It also felt wise.
So I prayed about it, and in His kindness, the Lord helped me see a bigger picture that included three insights (plus more, but I’ll spare you):
- I couldn’t give more time or resources, but the organization needed more from me. (Note: I had more hours to give, but relationships, hobbies, family roles, freelance, side hustles, and other ministries needed me, too. If your ‘extras’ are important to you, prioritize them rather than putting them on a shelf.)
- Because of grant cycles, end of year campaigns, blah, blah, the best window for departure was now…or next year.
- Writing was still my calling, but I’d given my work my voice, focus, and brain. It was time to recover them.
When I told a colleague from another organization that I was leaving my role, she nodded. “Yep, burnout is tough.” I hadn’t used the word, but she understood the nature of nonprofit work – during a pandemic, no less. “Give yourself time,” she continued. “A friend of mine said it took her six months to recover.”
I smiled and shook my head with a polite, “Maybe, but we’ll see.” I was convinced my recovery would be speedy. I had Jesus after all. I had disciplines and rhythms. I had superpowers that should have prevented all-encompassing drain. Six months?! I don’t think so!
Six months have passed, and I finally feel like myself again. What’s more, I’m enjoying opportunities that wouldn’t have opened without a leap of faith. I’m also working two jobs, plus contract and freelance work, so basically, I’m back to building. I’m discovering that building is my happy place.
Interestingly, it is not always my healthy place. With no clear lines defining when enough is enough, there is a persistent temptation to do just a little bit more. So I prayed about this, and the Lord helped me recognize 4 Ps that have governed the unhealthiest periods of my life:
In careful amounts, these Ps push me toward excellence – a virtue of Jesus following, no question. They contribute toward the precision of my writing, my preparation of effective exercises when I teach and train, and judicious use of my time to accomplish what needs done. They keep me dedicated to prayer and journaling so I can understand who I am, who God is, and how to respond faithfully in alignment with His will for me.
But there is a fine line between health and dysfunction in each of these Ps, and the correct placement of that line can only be determined within the faith relationship. Without the discernment of Jesus eyes, perfection is permitted to say, “Be better.” Performance says, “Do more.” Production says, “Give more.” And proving (where I find myself these days) says, “So about your being, doing, and giving…prove it.”
This is the depersonalizing process of the Accuser. He skews good things, deceiving us into believing our value and worth, obedience and faith depend on strict adherence to standards we can’t meet. We forfeit our unique personhood, driving ourselves to become machines that build without joy and rest, without dependence on and reflection of our Creator.
I was made for more. You were, too.
I’m building from a healthy place this time around, so I’m redefining the motivators of my excellence with 4 Es:
Each of these puts my focus and heart back on Jesus, the One for whom I build, work, write, give, and live.
What 4 words might be helpful in keeping you focused on Jesus? I’d love to hear!