Empty Spaces

I whispered, “I am not my burnout,” a phrase I held underneath my breath just silent enough so no one else could hear. These words erupted as Jen Hatmaker was giving a stellar keynote at the recent Brave On conference. While I do not recall Jen’s exact words, I sharply remember her speech triggered a new epiphany of hope that washed over me like warm soapy water. I finally began to see myself separate from my worst days and the burnout that led me to an abrupt pause.

While on sabbatical this summer, my self-esteem danced back and forth from moments of embodying peace to anxious depravity for leaving the ministry I had started sooner than I anticipated. Sadly, burnout had not hit me until I was too far gone for there to be any method of renewal other than an extended season of solemn rest. Although it was Chris’s and my prayerful choice to take a back seat, my soul went down kicking and screaming.

Months removed from the day-to-day grind, I still felt a strong sense of shame for the dream and drama of Restore One not panning out the way I’d imagined. Respite came when a level of personal self-awareness peaked within my body, the fatigue and flashbacks signaling a “no more.” It was a blessing that Chris and I could recognize and honor our infiniteness.

This is a battle I often grapple with: seeing my way of living through the eyes of Jesus, not through my desire for approval and perfection.

Now as Chris and I slowly transition away from sabbatical into a new and promising season, I still wonder who I would be had I not faced burnout. It’s not a profitable game, asking the mirror on the wall to foretell the future. Yet, permitting myself to seek answers I likely will never know has brought clarity to the fog of life after the death of an existence I once sought.

With the transitions of leaving the familiar, I’ve started over in various ways and finally decided to put old dreams to rest, making space for the existence of new life ahead. I am daily choosing to trust the whims of grace as I’ve watched Restore One blossom into its purpose with the opening of The Anchor House. I now want to flower in my own life.

Just a few weeks ago I felt the strong urge to clean out my closets and get rid of every piece of clothing that was outdated, torn, stained, and worn-out. This notion was a stiff contrast to the call to rid old and unneeded items before our transition to Colorado. When Chris invited me to add to his donate pile, I promptly informed him that I had nothing I needed to give or sell. I aspired to keep all my ruddy and blemished clothes, carrying them on our move. I was not ready to let go of the old and worn-out places in my heart or my closet. Proximity is uncanny, isn’t it? So, I stubbornly brought my tattered wardrobe and worn-out self with me on this new journey.

Choosing to clean out my closet was an external cleansing of my internal world. I was ready to put to rest former aspirations and dream anew, and I desperately needed a new wardrobe! Renouncing the curse of burnout was embodying the phrase, “I am not finished yet.” I was finally able to see myself as strong, confident, and capable. My journey starting Restore One and co-leading this precious ministry through complicated seasons did burn me, but evil did not take me out. Now I am now stable and wisely equipped for future work and the battle ahead. With that victory, I am slowly filling up the empty spaces in closet and heart, blessing the season of new promises.

Anna SmithAnna Smith is Co-Founder of Restore One and serves as an advisory board member. Restore One has opened The Anchor House, the first shelter in the nation designed to meet the needs of sex trafficked and sexually exploited American boys. Anna has a resilient passion to see sex trafficking victims experience true healing and restoration. In her spare time, Anna enjoys biking with her husband Chris, reading, cooking, throwing pottery, running and yoga. Learn more about Restore One here.