Compassion Fatigue – It’s Real

orderOne melt down after another has been my week, no I did not adopt a two year old. I’m talking about me the mom, the adult.   My melt downs have been both internal and external,  that feeling as if your brain shut off and you can’t focus, you have to work hard at holding back the tears over just about anything and everything others say to you, your heart aches and your not sure why the slightest challenge is ready to tip you over and you just can’t seem to shake the emotions of it all.  That pretty much sums up how I have been feeling the last few days.

I ask myself Why? What is wrong with me?  I tell myself pull it together, stop being so sensitive.  Then an email arrives from my mom, who is always full of wisdom and encouragement, not to mention years of experience on the mission field.  Her email was short yet so very real.

“compassion fatigue” is REAL.  Seeing poverty day after day after day and only being able to do so much takes a tole on our emotions….makes us fragile to things that we could have easily handled….it sneaks up on you and you don’t really know it is happening.

Is this what my melt downs are all about both internal and external?  The days leading up to my melt downs were filled with seeing living conditions along the road side I had not come across since arriving in Mexico, I thought I had seen the poor until I  came across the roadside village of 100’s and 100’s of makeshift shacks creating a village for the poor and needy.  My heart ached for those I could see walking on the dirt paths that connected one shack to the next. Wondering what challenges they face daily – hunger, sickness, unclean water, lack of education, no work to be found.  Do they have hope? do they know my God?

Next, I spent an afternoon at Door of Faith orphanage which was  the place I visited when I was 13 years old. As I stood on the same mountain ledge  where  I felt God spoke and called me to this country all those years ago, I wanted to argue with God why it took so many years to bring me back,  I could still feel that same passion he had given me all those years ago  as I looked over the orphanage below me.   As I spent time touring the now 125 bed orphanage, looking into the eyes of these children, holding and cuddling the babies I felt a sense of lost years, why did I not return years ago?  had I wasted all these years?  what can I do now for the 100’s of children who still need a safe home in Mexico?

The following day my boys and I headed out to our weekly ministry time in Zone Norte the most dangerous area of Tijuana where we go weekly to help in an outreach program for both the children and their moms who live in this area.  As I sat with the moms attempting to converse with my spanglish , trying to understand their culture, feeling unequipped to reach them.   my brain felt as if it could think no longer. I truly wanted to find an escape.  But where do you run  in Zone Norte? Why would I want to abandon the new mom friends  I was making?

I could continue on with story after story of what I see, feel and experience here in Mexico that takes my emotions on a roller coaster of feeling there is so much to do , so many needs, and only so much we can physically do.  It exhausts my brain , my emotions and causes a lot on non-clarity as to what God is truly calling us to do here.

Has compassion fatigue hit me? Is this meltdown feeling a result of it?  I say to myself “SERIOUSLY, I’m barely in the trenches of missionary life” so many have been doing this for years, so many have sacrificed  much more, so many live in far harder conditions, live much father  away from their homeland, see much worse then I will ever see. Yet I can’t escape the idea that Compassion Fatigue is real, it appeared from no where, it hit me like a weight I’ve never carried, it creates confusion, it creates restlessness, it creates meltdowns.

As I reflect on where we are today “MEXICO” and years ago being questioned about my lack of mercy after taking the Taylor Johnson Temperamentrock  Analysis to become a Licensed Assemblies of God minister.  During my interview I was asked only two questions one of which was how could I feel called to a life of ministry with such a low result in the gift of Mercy.  I responded with Send me to “Mexico”and watch how that analysis of my Mercy will change into one  full of compassion for the poor and needy.  That was 28 years ago.  Yes, God has a sense of humor , here I am in Mexico struggling with an overload of compassion and mercy.

Where does one go from here?  Living in a foreign country does not allow for those much needed  pour out your life lunch dates with my girlfriends -they are 100’s of miles away  Or  the fact that living in a community on a YWAM campus does not allow much escape unless you enjoy sitting in a travel trailer where any movement or noise can send you over the edge realizing you are living in a box smaller then the bedroom you left behind in the US. Even taking a long walk alone means circling the campus property over and over again.  When a day off still means there is work to do, a meeting to attend, a phone call to answer, and email to reply to,  Skipping meals and  sleeping less can easily become away of life, and we wonder why  adults even meltdown?

What I’m learning is that I have to daily fill myself back up with Gods word, his grace, his love, his peace, his guidance. Relying 100% on him.   To discover new ways to find rest even when my mind and body want to go 100 more miles.  It means stepping away, shutting the computer, the phone, the door and realizing that God is in charge, God has a plan, God will meet the needs of his people I am just the vessel he will use as he sees fit. Along with getting physical rest and nourishing my own body with proper eating these ingredients are all key in controlling Compassion fatigue and ending these Mommy meltdowns.
I am reminded even Jesus took time away :“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mk. 6:30-32).

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