It hit me last week like a fever. Uncomfortable. Irritable. Exhausted. Disgusted. I was at the bottom. I had imperceptibly drifted from on fire to burned out. I didn't want to read my bible. At all. I didn't want to write. At all. I was all Lented out. Tired of the sacrificing. Fed up with being unfed. Delerious from chocolate deprivation. I wanted ice cream, and I wanted a brownie, and I wanted them swimming in hot fudge. And I wanted it NOW. I was all Lented out.
I hate that feeling of burnout in my spiritual life. I hate it when I know, absolutely know that I have hit the point of desperation, where I'd rather watch the 7th consecutive half hour of ESPNews than spend five minutes reading through my chapter of Proverbs for the day. I hate feeling that isolation, that sense of apathy tinged with bitterness that says to God (albeit quietly, almost mumbling), "I'm doing my best here! I'm doing everthing I know I should do: devotions, prayerful reflection...I'm showing up every day, and where are you?!?"
I hate it, but I feel it.
And when I felt it again last week, when I realized I was all Lented out, I also realized that I had fallen victim to what I had so wisely preached against just four short weeks ago: I allowed Lent to become a self-discipline thing instead of a spiritual emphasis thing. I was no longer focusing on God; I was focusing on me, and what God should be doing to keep up His end of this Lenten deal of ours. I sacrifice, He gives me insights on the sacrifice. I read the bible, He opens my eyes to profound and personal truths in there for me. I quietly reflect, He fills my mind with things to reflect on. It's all fine and dandy as long as it keeps going the way I think it should. But when I no longer find those profound and personal truths in my daily reading? And this persists for a week or so? That's when I see that meeting with and being with God was secondary to getting something from Him. It's an ever-so-slight difference between the two, but the end result is dramatically different.
When I focus on getting something specific from my time with God, the focus dominates my activity. I'm distracted by what should be happening - especially when it stops happening. Picture yourself eating your meals for a solid week, obsessively attending to every nutritional detail of what you're consuming. "I've been eating broccoli and asparagus for four days, but I'm not feeling any better!" "I'm choking down these protein shakes because they're supposed to help me feel satisfied. But I'm hungry an hour later." That would be a miserable way to approach your meals, wouldn't it? Now you see why focusing on what you should be getting from your personal time with God can defeat the purpose of being with Him.
So, I reoriented myself a few days ago, and let God off the spiritual hook. I even started reading two or three of my Psalms in the morning and the remainder of them at night instead of force-feeding myself all five chapters at one sitting. The result has been beneficial, too. I'm more relaxed, more attentive, and more receptive.
But I still want a brownie. NOW.