A few years ago, I experienced burn out. Personal and professional. A combination of highly stressed working in some of the most deprived areas of the UK as well as personal circumstances, contributed to a bit of a meltdown. It wasn’t an overnight thing and had been happening (unknowingly to me) over a long period of time.

In hindsight when I look back at that dark place, it scares me.

It wasn’t really a ‘can’t get out of bed’ thing, but it was a ‘watch Jeremy Kyle all day thing.’  I needed the background noise. I’m not one of those people who can sleep their days away, I’ve often wished I was. In fact I’m the opposite,  I marched around Edinburgh parks and streets to keep myself moving and occupied, usually fuelled by large amounts of caffeine and clutching a self-help book. I’ve always been a bit of a put a smile on and get over it kinda girl. That can be half of my problem sometimes.

One of the biggest and, in my opinion long-term effects of burn out is an inability to tolerate stress. (Something to do with spending too much time in ‘fight or flight’ mode and adrenalin turning into cortisol if i remember rightly). Other effects can be hopelessness, exhaustion, irritability..the list goes on. Anyway, another consequence is ‘compassion fatigue’. Realising I was completely ‘compassioned out’, overwhelmed by meeting others’ needs as well as my own, led me to call out to God for help.

I was in an AA meeting with my friend John in 2008. I remember thinking there was something missing from my spiritual life. ”  I felt  irritated by everyone in the meeting as usual ” I need more compassion John”, I said ” I think I want to try out a church”

A week later, John and I went to a Brighton church. I heard the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15,11-32). I think I’d heard the title before, but never really understood it or what it meant. For those who haven’t read the parable, it’s the story of a guy who goes off and hammers it, partying like mad. He reaches rock bottom and decided he wants to return to his Father. He’s scared as he doesn’t know how he will be received. His Father is joyous at his return. The parable is the story of our Father’s love  for his children. It tells us that no matter what we have done, or are doing, he’s there waiting for us with open arms. He rejoices when we come home, in fact he celebrates, holds a party.

I left that place feeling different, something had happened. I’m not sure I knew what it was straight away. Something happened in my heart. That’s all I can say.

Fast forward two years..

Do I have more compassion than I did? Most of the time, yes.  At least I’m tempted to spend less time navel gazing and more time looking outward these days.

Do I believe God restores and heals the broken? Yes, that’s his speciality!

Am I learning to trust God and get out of the driving seat more often? Yes, slowly.

Do I believe social justice is at the heart of the Gospel and that God wants us to reach out to the needy and less fortunate? Too right.

2 Corinthians 1:2-4

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.