Daily Devotions

We Aren't Any Different From an Elk

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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.

Adapting to Change

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

We are living in times even more transformative than the 1960’s. The technological age has made adaptive thinking even more necessary right now. But technology isn’t the biggest challenge to our changing lives. Changing social mores are even more difficult for us to adapt to in this world. We can learn to work a computer, but it takes a whole different set of skills to learn a new way of perceiving the world.

The wonderful writer, Thomas Oppong, in his article, “Adaptive Thinking: An Important Skill For 21st Century Success,” helps us walk through a new perspective. Oppong reminds us of the words of Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Figuring out the best option in each situation helps us adapt well.

Oppong addresses the issue well when he says, “Adaptability is about looking reality in the face and not shying away from it. It’s about riding on the waves of change no matter how strong the winds are.” In the age of the Coronavirus, those who adapted quickly made their lives easier and safer. We are also being challenged in new ways to adapt our thinking about “Black Lives Matter” and police abuse of African-Americans. When protests take place, with people of color involved, too many white people turn up their nose and lay blame on the protestors, rather than on those they are protesting. In this present moment, we need to adapt our thinking in this area as well. To be stubborn, is to fail to hear the voice of God’s transforming vision.

Today, search your soul for areas in your life where adapting to change has been hard. We all struggle with prejudices born out of how we were raised. The challenge is to learn and adapt. We shouldn’t just change because it is popular in the moment. It requires more of us. It requires us to struggle with the challenge and come to an honest, new understanding.  The struggle requires listening, study, and an abundance of empathy. Seek God’s guidance as you listen, study, and relate. Then God can faithfully challenge our preconceptions. We might just become better, more faithful, people in the process.

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