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On Sunday, Pastor John preached from Acts 2, opening with v. 42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
My mind hooked on one word.
I let the word roll around for a moment in my mind.
Hmm, what do you think of devotion?
No—go back to devoted—it’s sticking to you.
I wrote the word down in my bulletin, letting my pen trace over every letter, adding little dots onto the letters, and underlining the word. As John preached, I started to write down words that I was hearing him say regarding what it means to be devoted: patience, commitment, participation, enduring, vulnerable, openness, gladness, and generosity.
I had never considered the words that directly relate to this one word, devoted. You see, devoted is a relationship-oriented word—we are devoted to our spouse and family, to God, to friends, to helping our neighbors, to our church, to giving to charities. Such a beautiful and sacred word, inexplicably entwined into our everyday living, and yet…I found myself wondering, “why this word? What is it about the word ‘devoted’ that I seem so attached to, God?”
Slowly, I was beginning to wrap my mind around how “devoted” is a word that seems to be unraveling at the seams around us. I can see people’s devotion to staying indoors disintegrating. I can see the ways in which people are grasping at their own strength and power because the vulnerability and openness that is part of devotion is becoming harder and harder to live out. I had days in the office when I could be in meetings with people from 9:00-5:00, yet now, three Zoom meetings in a row absolutely wipe me out, my endurance and participation zapped. When not working, it feels all I’m doing is trying to tend to my mental health, recognizing that the depression and anxiety are heightened due to the circumstances. My days off seem to be filled with trying to take care of myself and keeping my apartment in some semblance of cleanliness, but I wake up Monday mornings feeling utterly spent, as if I had spent my entire weekend running a marathon instead of engaging in self-care practices.
Perhaps, beloved, what we are seeing around us, what many of us are experiencing, is something akin to burnout? Could we be witnessing in our world and in our daily lives a devotion burnout after so many weeks of practicing such a deep level of devotedness to self and neighbor? I truly believe this is what we are starting to witness—people tired of being devoted to their homes, so jump into social situations that are like a “feel-good” drug right now, but could result in repercussions in the long run. So too do we see arguments on either side of the aisle for what we are to be more devoted to: the economy or beating the disease.
Yet at the same time, I cannot help but sense there is another reason the word “devoted” became my sticky word for the week. I wonder, what if, amid our determination to be devoted to so many things in our life, that we have forgotten to pay attention to all the ways in which God is devoted to us? When was the last time, you took a moment to think through all the signs you have witnessed throughout your day or week, and seen God’s constant devotion to you? I’m not sure I have ever contemplated or taken the time to spiritually practice the manifestation of God’s devotion to us—God’s patience, commitment, participation, endurance, vulnerability, openness, gladness, and generosity. What a beautiful practice it might be, beloved, to not dig in our heels and try harder to be devoted to others while experiencing our own burnout, but to instead sit and pay attention to the ways God is revealing devotion to us so that we might be filled, restored, and renewed in our own practices of living a devoted life.
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