Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. (Psalm 69:1)
I just could not put down an article by Zander Nethercutt, entitled, “We Are All the Burnout Generation.” Nethercutt tells the story of the Irish elk that roamed what is now Siberia, more than 11,000 years ago. The story of the Irish Elk is a story of burnout. “The male elk, or bulls, who were born with a mutation that gave them slightly larger antlers than the rest would win fights with other bulls over mates and could more easily fend off predators.” The Irish Elk’s powerful antlers continued to get larger with each passing generation. The problem was, that over a period of generations, the Irish Elks’ antlers became so large that they became too heavy. They couldn’t maneuver through the woods, and they became too slow in responding to predators. Their selective advantage became burnout, and their downfall. They became extinct.
Nethercutt rightly compares the Irish Elk to we Americans. We are such an industrious people. We work hard and are regularly willing to sacrifice to get ahead. Success begat success. More work meant more money, more money meant larger cars, larger homes, larger number of toys. The more others received, the more we worked to stay ahead. We’ve gotten to the point where our antlers are too big. We cannot work anymore hours, it has already had a negative effect on our family, faith, and mental health. We cannot keep it up. If we do not figure out a new way, our antlers are going to kill us off as well.
Nethercutt points out the etymology of the word burnout. “Long before it was used in a psychological context, ‘burnout’ meant keeping a car stationary while spinning its wheels. The term doesn’t refer explicitly to the end state, when the car’s engine overheats. Rather, it refers to the car burning fuel and going nowhere.” In our burnout, we are burning all our fuel, and feel like we are going nowhere. In other words, has all our extra work, ignoring our families and our faith, left us nowhere?
We need to slow down. Our burnout is a cry for help. If we do not make changes in our life, our antlers are going to get too big and we are going to be left with nothing of real, eternal, importance. Pray for God to guide your way back to a meaningful life. Don’t let burnout leave you with emotional and spiritual extinction. When God is the center of your life, burnout is less likely and meaning remains before you. Let God remove your burnout and bring meaning that will last for all eternity.