Once I went to the Holy Land with my mother-in-law and her sister – my wife’s aunt. We were part of a group traveling with Educational Opportunities. The trip was as much a pilgrimage as it was a tour. When we arrived home we had experiences to share and slides to show. The three of us got together and we were joined by my wife and her aunt’s husband. We watched the pictures and relived the trip with all its emotion and spiritual learnings. I think I had about a third of my slides still to show when the husband stood up. He had been fidgeting for a while, and he had come to the point where he just couldn’t take it any more. When the pleading looks to his wife had not had the desired effect he said to her in a gentle but firm voice: “I’ve got to go!” He had hit the wall. Watching slides of trips that other people have taken will do that to you.
As I write this I am at a conference with four other people from our church. We have had a day of workshops and each of us have attended different sessions. We arrived back to the hotel this evening and spent over three hours together talking about what we had experienced throughout the day. We have begun to think about what we might do differently at First UMC Burlington. We talked about the worship service, the buildings, how we are structured, possibilities for music … It is obvious that our brains have been in hyper-drive all day, and we couldn’t just turn them off – until about 9 PM. That’s when we “hit the wall”. Exhaustion will do that to you.
“The Five Essential Roles …”; “The Ten things You have to Know About …”; “How to Reach the …” At 9 PM we just couldn’t do it any more.
We can’t take it all home with us and expect others in our church to sit there and listen to us relive our excitement. We are going to have to separate out what is meant to be shared with everyone and what was meant only for us individually.
How much information do you receive every day that is “essential” to your happiness and well-being? Have you ever shut yourself down for no other reason than that you had heard or experienced enough? Compassion fatigue can affect the most empathetic among us. The constant stream of bad news can make us deaf to the suffering of others.
Information overload is part of our lives every day, whether it comes in the form of good news or bad. We have another day and a half at this conference to sift through all the ideas and discern the several that are ours for the keeping and sharing. May the Spirit give us wisdom so that we can let all the other stuff go.