It is so easy to burn out on things these days - probably because we have sensory overload from all the things coming at us in the course of the day. I was privileged to spend a week away with my best friend again this week and we went to Orlando (the first time for both of us). Of course, when in Rome, you do as the Romans do, so off we went to explore the Disney attractions. Can I just say that if you want sensory overload, spend about two hours in one of these parks and just watch what happens to you in terms of how uneasy you begin to feel. With the constant stream of people pushing and pressing against you, music of all manner blaring from one set of speakers as you transition to the next, and smells pulling at each of your nostrils, you will soon realize sensory overload. If we continued doing this long enough, we'd either get so overloaded we'd just burn out, or we'd become so dulled by the sensory input we'd miss out on stuff all around us. The same is true in our spiritual walk - too much of one thing or another is not good, nor is too many things all tugging at your spirit at the same time. We need balance.
Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13 MSG)
Fueled and aflame, we are to live life in balance. Without balance we simply get too much fuel, with too little flame; or the other way around, we have a too hot of a flame which burns up the limited fuel we have stored away. How do we obtain sufficient fuel for the journey? I wouldn't want to get on the plane home to find they decided to cut the fueling short on our journey home. I'd want to know they had sufficient, and maybe just a teensy bit more! In our spiritual walk, we want sufficient, but we want reserves for the unexpected challenges we may face along the way, as well. Fueled spirits come in times of connecting with God in prayerful thought (notice I didn't just say prayer - because so many think prayer is a kind of hard thing) and determined study of his Word.
Prayerful thought is kind of like just sharing with God the regular stuff of our day. I find myself asking God if he just saw what I was seeing, or if he heard what someone just said - then asking him quickly to intervene. It isn't really "deep" prayer, but it is significant because we are carrying on the dialogue with him and he is often imparting just a little bit of wisdom to us in those moments. One of the things which help us to maintain balance is this idea of living with expectancy. I don't think this is always that evident in our lives, though - expectancy being shut down or held at bay because of all the sensory overload we allow into our lives. Expectancy is based on focus - what we expect with such urgent anticipation is what we focus upon with heartfelt determination.
As I indicated - fuel without a flame is kind of useless. There are times we get ourselves so "fueled up" with all manner of good preaching, teaching, times of study, etc. Then it is like we sit on the runway of life and just idle in position. What we take in is meant to be shared. Maybe this is why Paul tells us to find creative or inventive ways to show our hospitality. What is hospitality? In the most literal sense, it is us being friendly and giving a warm reception to another. In the sense of our "neighbors" in Christ, we are called to welcome both the stranger and the familiar with equal warmth, respect, and compassion. This is what comes when we are aflame with the love of Christ in our lives and this love comes from committed times of walking close enough to Jesus to actually allow his Spirit to connect with us.
God has been so generous with us, it is good for us to be as generous with others as he has been with us. If we are to maintain balance, we have to "burn" a little bit of the fuel at a consistent pace, replenishing when it is being drained a little, and then to kindle the fire by giving it away. You may not think of "kindling the fire" as giving it away, but in the times Paul wrote these words, those traveling from town to town often would obtain a small pot of embers from someone who already had a fire burning. They would use those embers to ignite their own fuel and in time, both fires were burning brightly. It might just be time for us to burn a little fuel and share a little ember or two with those who need our hospitality. Just sayin!