The Cure for Burnout

Ann Voskamp

So this rabid symphony lover invites me to a concert, a box seat, up over the orchestra.

It’s cold. Chicago in January. The violinists warm up. The whole northern hemisphere keeps trying to.

From anywhere in the building, you can see the guy up front, the conductor.

Somebody’s ironed his black threads pretty smooth. His hair – not so much. It’s this perfect balance of grace.

The lights dim, papers stop rustling. A thousand smart phones are rendered dumb. The conductor raises his arms and in one moment it’s like he’s pulled a million strings and the music rises --- and there it is, clear as a spotlight:

The only way to lead a symphony is to turn your back to the crowd, the critics, the court.

Something inside me unhinges.

The only way to lead any kind of symphony is to turn your back to the critics – the ones across the street, the ones in your family tree, the ones in the front row and the ones down the hall.

To turn your back to the ones who are assessing your kids, evaluating your address, weighing your work, judging your merits --- or lack thereof.

I am sitting there and it’s like my own taut strings are played and it’s like a haunting: sometimes the critic you have to turn your back to is the inner one.

God’s Word says that righteousness is about finding favor in somebody’s sight.

Turns out that you can live your life trying to get your righteousness from a thousand different places instead of in Him.

Turns out that righteousness is really about being acceptable.

And sin is really about what you let determine your acceptability.

Turns out that you can spend your life looting the world, looking for acceptance, only to find that all that made you feel acceptable -- were phony fakes of the real thing.

That’s why it never lasts. That’s why you get up everyday still desperate for something, someone, to keep saying you are somebody. That you are somebody who is okay enough, who is acceptable enough, who is more than good enough.

Sin is really about what you let determine your acceptability.

The conductor’s focus never wavers.

The symphony only happens, the symphony only makes music, when you are brave enough to simply turn your back to the critics and your face toward the place where the music’s made. I close my eyes, because I can, because I cannot. Music’s only made in the place of acceptance ---– accepting the beautiful reality of the notes.

That’s the thing: We all get to choose where we set up the stage of our lives --- before the Crowds, the Court, the Congregation, the Critics (inner or otherwise)-– or the Cross of Christ.

All except One will assess your performance.

Only One will accept you before your performance.


What if kids got that, right down in their DNA? What if parents got that in the marrow of their weary bones? What if creatives and visionaries and dreamers and makers and leaders felt the unleashing release of just that? What if the beautiful reality of His extravagant, lavish, ardent, complete acceptance became your everyday reality?

The stream of notes are surging up between my fractured places, a bond along brokenness, and that’s all I can think:

What if your complete acceptability became your complete identity?

The entire symphony crescendos, a wave breaking free.

The conductor never turns. The moment any thought slips outside of Christ and you’re back in court: judged Performance before any hope of Acceptance. The music keeps rolling over him, rolling over us, the whole place reverberating with this euphonic glory.

And I don’t know why I think of it right then, maybe only because everything’s quaking with this thunder of notes, but my father had told me once that in every sound system, in every speaker, there are these large magnets.

He had turned one of those heavy magnet over in his worn hands, the magnet as large as his etched palm --- and he had told me that that if a speaker had no magnet – it would have no real sound.

There is only real sound, there is only a powerful speaker, there is only felt reverberation, there is only music – when there is a magnet attracted to the ultimate source of acceptance.

When identity is not drawn from a performance – but drawn toward a Person, the person of Jesus – this is the place where a life makes music. If your performance is fueled by a need for acceptance, that is what burns your life out.

But when His already acceptance is the very fuel of your performance – this is what ignites a life into pure glory.

Profound acceptance is what gives you profound performance.

Now you can give the performance of your life --- because it’s based on the completeness of your acceptance: Which means you dance.

Which means an erupting relief of grateful joy moves you.

Which means there's this symphonic movement --- that moves the world.

Named by Christianity Today as one of the 50 Women most shaping church and culture today, Ann Voskamp is the author of several books, including the New York Times Bestsellers, One Thousand Gifts a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, and The Greatest Gift. Ann is a mother to seven crazy and wonderful kids, and wife to one hard-working farmer. She blogs at:

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