It is Christmas time as I write this, and my house is filled with music. This is actually a pretty normal situation for our home at the moment. While we are, as a whole, unlikely to have a speaker streaming music, our kids that are still at home, aged ten through fifteen, are in the throes of learning. All three take piano; two are in the middle school band, one is in the high school orchestra, and the high schooler also plays the harp. Practice for Christmas recitals, concerts, and worship services has made our home of much beauty, and often we hear our kids or ourselves singing along to the familiar tunes.
Andy Crouch, in his book The Tech-wise Family, devotes a chapter to playing and singing music. He says, “singing may be the one human activity that most perfectly combines heart, mind, soul, and strength.” (page 191) This is because singing truly uses all of who we are. Our hearts reach out to God, our minds remembering words, pitches and rhythms, our souls resting in God’s presence, and our strength actually being used to create the music. This makes singing a perfect way for us to recharge ourselves.
Burnout is common among school staff everywhere, but administrators seem especially susceptible. Much of the burnout comes from our inability to live wholeheartedly over the last few years. Many have talked about this concept recently; for example, Bob Goff, in his book Undistracted puts it this way, “evil wants to distract us from expressing our gifts and doing what we are meant to do.” Isolated and divided, we have only tentatively crept back into our former environments, and we find them changed. Places that used to feel familiar and comfortable, where we were free to express our lives, have become places where we have to guard our souls and speak words carefully. You can only do this for so long without it burning you out. And for me, one of the antidotes to this problem is singing.
Many people have a routine of how and when they intentionally meet with God. Because of how I am made and wired, my time is in the morning. I go for a walk and then sit on the porch and read scripture, read other stories of spiritual journey, and pray. On the best days, God strips me of the things that get in the way of my service. In the last few years, I have added singing to this routine. For me, this is uncomplicated, a simple short chorus that I use every morning. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name. Precious, Savior, Jesus.” I sing it out loud. It gives me words to say that join me with the great cloud of witnesses and prepares my heart for Jesus to join me. I truly believe this practice has enhanced the openness of my heart to living more obediently and wholeheartedly. For you, this exact practice will need changes, but I invite you to explore how you might add your voice to refresh your soul.
This spring, The Christian Deeper Learning conference is offering a spiritual retreat on the pre-conference day. This offering is part of recognizing that the last three years have worn us down, all of us, but especially educators. We hope to add days like this to other conferences because burnout will come to a head in each of us at different times. If you are coming to the conference and you are feeling burned out, come a day early. Leave your phone in your car and spend a day with God, planned and led intentionally by educators with diverse perspectives and experiences, helping people connect to God and who God made them to be. The hope is that one day of refreshment will lead to other changes, and slowly over time, you will be back to living wholeheartedly. Your healing path will not look like what you expect, in fact, it will be richly better than you expect. You might even sing more.