It was 2011 when I was captivated by an altruistic vision: change the world. Being the naïve person that I was, I figured this would be easy, especially if we have Christ on our side. If God is for us, then who can stop us, right? Over the past two years, I’ve come to learn that God has definitely been for me. He loves our dreams and aspirations. He encourages, inspires, and cultivates it like a loving Father would. But a Father also disciplines and closes doors for you in order to refine you. He knows what’s best.
Reflecting on my years, I see a mistake of mine being that I confuse God knowing what’s best for me with me not doing my best. When I fail, it’s not because God wills it. It’s because I wasn’t trying hard enough. When I didn’t get a job, I wasn’t trying hard enough. When I produced unsatisfying work, I wasn’t trying hard enough. When I hurt those I care about, I wasn’t trying hard enough to be the better person.
Burnout is what results when you can’t reconcile failure with radical vision. I went through this period where I wasn’t inspired to write or take any risks because my vision had been stained by my failure.
This unfortunately, can affect any of us. There are so many people I know who have a God-centered radical vision for the world or their community. But in this vision, there is no room for failure. And if there is failure along the road, we go blaming our inability rather than seeing it as refinement. In this case, the question “am I doing my best?” becomes a weapon to burnout. It becomes a fan to the flame, the bullet to the gun, the nail to the coffin of any creativity you might possess. I tortured myself with this question because I failed to see the big picture.
Over the past couple weeks, God has been taking me on a rollercoaster of what it truly means to have a vision for Him. He has been faithful in showing me that it’s time to reengage my vision with these three things in mind.
1.) Don’t expect too much out of yourself
At times, we can have this romanticized view of our capability, but we’re not superhuman. We endure pain, we suffer, we can only take so much. When I viewed my radical vision, I saw it as way bigger than my capability allowed. This was because vision can sometimes blind us from who we really are- human.
In his book, The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse, Michael Gungor said, “Burnout is what happens when you avoid being human for too long.” Now I finally realize what he meant by that. Being human means you have limits to everything. Vision should never exceed those limits when you rely wholly on yourself.
2.) Don’t expect too much out of people
Sometimes burnout happens because we’ve been straying within some box for too long. The borders of this box are enforced by society. People can board up your vision like a pigpen. The mistake comes when we have the greater faith in people. We can act like they don’t limit our vision, when in actuality, they do. Most of the times, we let them do so! We look for affirmation for our vision from people. But this is the box we confine ourselves in! Affirmation should not be wholly dependent on people. But that doesn’t mean you don’t take other’s advice at all. Hone your craft or vision with the advice of people who care for you and know what you’re doing.
3.) Expect a lot out of God!
As a Christian, my perspective sees God influencing my work and my vision. Once I was able to focus on God’s role in my vision, I was able to see that my craft and vision has a purpose and is a process. It’s being led somewhere. To where, I don’t know, but that’s okay!
My biggest mistake that resulted in my burnout was that I limited God. My view of God didn’t increase in relation to my vision. As a result, my vision became stagnant, stuck within the confines of my capability and the box people forced it in. And if something doesn’t grow or change, it becomes dead and lifeless.
God allows me to see past myself. He shows that a vision centered on Him for His glory, knows no limits. The easiest way to avoid burnout is to look to the One who sets our hearts ablaze for Himself.
When you let God be God in your vision, you become refined by failure, not defined by it. He guides it and leads it into the unknown where growth happens. So I invite you, if you are holding your vision close to your chest, torturing yourself by questioning your capability, let God graciously interrupt you. Dare to be radical with vision by trusting in Him who inspires it.