Steve Macchia Blog

Burned Out on the Disciplines

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message)

I burned out on the spiritual disciplines. At one point in my spiritual development I had sought to live out about multiple spiritual disciplines simultaneously. My list of spiritual “to do’s” was all consuming, guilt-producing, and definitely life-destroying. And all along I kept asking myself: Am I doing enough? Is there more to consider?

How can this be, you might be thinking.

Well, try reading the Bible through in a year, and add to that memorizing verses along the way, praying over the daily newspaper one major article at a time, memorizing the countries and capitals of the world to better inform your prayers, listening to radio and TV preachers (and of course purchasing their follow up materials), facilitating small groups, attending conferences, praying for and supporting missionaries, journaling, retreating, fasting or feasting (depending on the season of the Christian year), reading every possible recommended Christian book… just to name a few! If you seek such a lofty endeavor, your soul will be unnecessarily and undoubtedly become burdened and consumed with anxiety.

As a result, I hit my wall spiritually. I had to step off the treadmill of spiritual disciplines that felt more like bondage, and instead I embraced practices that brought freedom, life and joy. What ended up as priorities were simply the regularity of time in God’s Word (with the view of less is more), prayer (with a desire to listen more than talk), and reflection (with a longing to remember and give thanks). I realized that trying to consume too much of a good thing can actually cause spiritual indigestion. I’ve discovered that these three rhythms (Scripture, prayer and reflection) are really good for the soul and lead me back into other disciplines as I’m led by the Lord.

This is your brother speaking: don’t burn out on the spiritual practices that are designed to lead you into the abundant life. Instead, learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

This entry also appears on the Conversations Journal Blog.

Thank You, MLK!

Today we pause and commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For those of us who grew up when Dr. King was alive, we remember well his non-violent stance toward injustice. He heard a clarion call inviting him to fulfill a compelling mission. Today the world is a much different place due to the tireless commitment and eventual martyrdom of Dr. King. He sacrificed his life for the freedom of the oppressed and his legacy lives on, not only among black people but others who suffer from injustices in our nation and world.
How do you handle the attacks of the enemy on your soul, your relationships, your very life itself? Are the injustices inflicted upon you, your family or your ministry as blatant as racism? Most of us can’t relate to such intolerance, but we can all relate to the challenges that come when we sense the attack of the opposition to all that befits a child of God.  Regardless of what you are facing today, the message is clear…violence begets violence. Therefore, always choose justice, mercy, humility, and peace.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8.

New Year Resolution #1: More Holy Leisure

January 1, 2011 was an unusually mild day in New England. At midday, several of our extended family members went for a leisurely walk in my favorite wildlife refuge near our home. It was a spectacular site, filled with incredible beauty despite the overcast mid-winter sky and the barrenness of the meadow. After our walk, we sat on benches and enjoyed the peaceful serenity of our surroundings. It was delightful.

My brother in-law asked me about my new year resolutions. At that point I hadn’t crafted my list. Within moments of the question, however, I had part of my answer. One resolution is for certain: add more holy leisure to my life. What I was feeling at that particular moment was a snapshot of the longing of my soul…unhurried times set apart to enjoy God’s creation, prayerfully attend to the voice of my Maker, and biblically ponder the path of life I’m invited to discover and fulfill each new day.

It was at that time of holy leisure that I came in touch with my deepest desire. Everything in my life – marriage, family, ministry, friendships – bursts forth from that place of holy listening. Without that wide open space for my soul, I will be crowded out by the noise, activity, relationships, and demands of my world. Today is the first Monday of January and I’m already feeling the upswing in activity, expectation, and the stress that accompanies a full family, personal and ministry life.

I want to remember throughout 2011 what I know to be true…God’s delight over us as we delight in His presence. Holy leisure – in both solitude and in community – will take me to that spacious place where my soul comes alive in pondering and receiving the many gifts for life that come from the generous hand of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Is your soul craving more holy leisure? If so, be sure to follow through with holy resolve this coming year!