A few weeks ago we launched a new sermon series at the church entitled, “Burnout or Refuel.” Our hope was that this sermon series would offer some help to those dealing with burnout. It was also our hope that this series would help to prevent it from happening because seeking the ounce of prevention is always better than the living through the pound of cure. With that in mind, I would like to share a metaphor for thinking about how we manage the competing demands on our time and the various roles that we have in life.
Many people have described life as a juggling act where balls represent the various things for which we are responsible and our job is to keep them in the air for as long as possible. However, a few years ago I came across a time management expert who extended the image a little further. He suggested that the balls that we are trying to keep in the air are not actually made of the same material. Some are made of glass in that they will break if we let them hit the ground while others are made of rubber in that they will bounce if we let them drop. The challenge is that the balls switch between glass and rubber depending on their priority at any given time. Our job is not to keep all the balls in the air all the time as that is impossible to do for an indefinite period of time. If we try to do it we will burn ourselves out. Plus, we will eventually slip up and let one or more balls drop. That is a given. But if we remember that some of the balls we have in the air are made of rubber then we can let them hit the ground knowing that they will rebound and instead focus our efforts on the fragile glass balls that will shatter if they the ground.
The key to avoiding burnout is to discern which balls are made of glass and rubber at any given time. Such discernment will take some work as the fragility or resilience of the various aspects of our lives is always in flux but for the most part not every ball that we have in air is made of glass. Some will bounce and we should let that happen if it makes the difference between burning ourselves out and letting all the balls hit the ground or surviving to juggle another day.