Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
Burnout. It’s cool when it’s a car. It’s expected when it’s a candle. But, boy, is it a bummer when it happens to us. We all know what leads to it. It comes from a significant amount of work with very little reward. It comes when we feel like we are all alone, and we are not in control of our situation. It comes when monotony is relentless, when work seems to never end, and when progress is difficult to measure.
And it can happen in any aspect of our lives, even in our faith life.
I know it has happened to me. I’ve gotten into the grind of church work so much that I go to pray or to pick up the Bible and can’t remember the last time I did either of those things for personal use. And suddenly what used to be the most life giving part of my life operates like an appendix. It’s just there, but not really essential anymore. It’s in those times that I recognize my personal need for renewal.
Perhaps it’s because the weather is threatening to turn toward spring (yes, I know I’m being optimistic), but I compare it to rotating crops. Farmers long ago realized that growing the same crop on the same piece of land year after year after year resulted in diminishing harvests. They realized two things were happening. First, they were sucking the nutrients out of the soil without giving them an opportunity to replenish themselves. Second, they were giving insects and disease opportunity to inhabit the same ground with an endless food source.
At times, that is what we do with our faith. We repeat the same motions over and over again until they’ve lost their intentionality. Additionally, like insects looking for their next meal, our faith becomes susceptible to bad habits. We don’t lose our faith all at once, but slowly watch it diminish over time.
We risk spiritual burnout, and we need spiritual renewal. Enter Lent.
This March we will all again be entering a season of the church year called Lent. For many this season is about discipline. For others, about sacrifice. But for those of us who are feeling tired or maybe even bored (if you’ll allow me to say that) with our faith, may this season be about renewal. May we trade in the relentless monotony for a reLENTless faith that again brings us life.
The prophet Isaiah promises renewal. He wrote, “Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not fall” (40:30-1).
This Lent may that promise be ours. May that renewal of strength manifest itself in us. But may we remember, the ground won’t replenish its nutrients until the crops are rotated. Enter this Lent intentionally. Look for God in new places. Practice your faith in new ways. And as you do, may you experience what it’s like to mount up with wings like eagles.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.