prime candidate for burnout


[If you don’t want to put up with what could be potentially perceived as me whining or self-loathing, please come back another time. Otherwise, read on, gently, if you would. Thanks. –b.]

I’m normally not one to splay my guts here for all the interwebs to see–yet that is exactly what happens when we write–but I’ve needed to talk about this for a while now. I am suffering from a crisis of faith.

No, I haven’t walked away or backslid; I’m not an atheist or an agnostic. In fact, I don’t have any issues with core Christian truth claims. I maintain them and defend them and will continue to.

I’m completely burned out. I’ve spent the past ten plus years discovering, honing and using my voice in challenging the American church to be something more than what it is, pointing out serious issues with the church and its doctrines, inviting critical discourse and never settling for mediocrity. For my concern, I’ve been excommunicated, abandoned, scorned and otherwise ignored by the church. I can hardly sit through a Sunday service–anywhere, really–without wanting to cringe at the wholly insular and insulated nature of American Christianity, a slavish commitment to liturgy, lifeless sermons and half-hearted songs written by cynical ‘worship leaders’ devoid of musical artistry or theological orientation.

In my post-ministerial years, I’ve been an apostle of sorts to people who fundamentally don’t give a crap. More often than not, I’m the most credible example of Christianity they’ve ever seen, for better and/or worse, and I end up having to do damage control more often than living gospel. The longer I stay out here,  and interact with actual human beings within our shared sitz im leben, the more evident it becomes that the church-without-walls has never been more committed to the bomb shelter mentality.

For the past few years, and the last 18 months or so in particular, I feel like I’ve been shouting into a void. Now, after several episodes with what seems to be moderate cases of depression, I’ve finally had enough. I’m exhausted in every conceivable way. It’s been a long time in the wilderness, and there really hasn’t been a lot of manna and quail to show for it. Now, with a family to care for and a mountain of debt gathered up for education I’m using pro bono, it’s no longer out-of-bounds to think it unfair to see the blessings received by others a curse on myself and my family.

It’s not selfish when I don’t know from where the money to pay my daughters’ medical bills will come, why I spent a decade training for ministry that got the partial-birth scissor treatment and no one in the church or rest of the world seems to want to listen to what I have to say. Then there was the insult to injury when I discovered, to my dismay, that the graduate program I completed was a dead-end. There’s been very little fruit to show for too much effort, and I’m too stubborn to compromise toward the lowest common denominator. I’m not going to squeeze into skinny jeans and start talking church psychobabble for a paycheck, and there’s nothing mysterious or ethereal about the Orthodox and Anglican bunches. What good is a reformer if systems can’t be reformed and their participants unwilling?  Tis a lonely existence.

A few months ago, I asked on my now unattended facebook page–if you go by the number of friends you have on fb, you’re only kidding yourself–if Enneagram type ones were being eliminated from modern culture. (No one answered, of course.) If no one can be wrong, what need is there for reformation? It’s my perfect existential storm.

So, I’m a believing unbeliever, or a unbelieving believer, or something or other. Or perhaps I’m just being very, very human. Whatever I am, I bear more mental and emotional scars in the name of truth than most people who have lived twice as long as me, and I’m no longer tolerating being a martyr or a glutton for punishment. And I won’t tolerate pity, pithy answers or eisegeted verses, either. Doesn’t leave me much room for comfort, or for community from people who choose religion precisely as a way to escape their anxieties and problems rather than confronting those the world carries, when in fact, those burdens never, ever go away.

Tis a lonely existence, indeed. Thanks for letting me vent.

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