Decompressing and entering God’s presence has not been without its challenges. When I make the time to settle in to enter into His presence, a swarm of thoughts flood my mind like flies at a picnic table. What makes it even more challenging is the fact that most are good thoughts. Thoughts about upcoming events and responsibilities. Ideas for projects being worked on. Thoughts about people and the need to pray for them. Reminders about things I need to work on. It’s amazing how sharp my memory becomes when I try to rest in the Lord! Instead of resting, I become restless.
I am quickly learning that a huge obstacle I face in truly abiding in Christ is restlessness. In fact, I believe restlessness is something that is inherent in my wiring. I realize that a part of this restlessness is sourced in the way I am wired. Doing has always been better than resting. Childhood naps were the roughest part of the day early on (now they are cherished treats!) Once, I remember going fishing on the Big Island, where all my cousins were determined to catch something. They meticulously took much time baiting their line and finding the ideal spot to dunk their line. They patiently waited and rested, hoping for some poor fish to bite their bait. Me? There was a preferred method of fishing, or hunting, more accurately. I decided to grab a snorkel and spear and go hunting for them fish. Why wait for them when I could go and hunt them down. (I hunted and hunted but didn’t get a single fish. That’s probably the reason I don’t care for fishing to this day.) The truth is I have always enjoyed doing stuff.
Now because of this bent to always be doing stuff, that bent has become an unhealthy habit. Over the years, doing and doing, not taking time to rest, has become the norm in my life. A habit. A bad habit.
You couple this “neurosis” with the multiple projects and responsibilities of ministry and you have the perfect storm. Over time, I got used to all the “stuff” I needed to do. All the “stuff” that I needed to work on. All the people I needed to meet. Going from one project to the next. Working on multiple things, trying to juggle my time to accomplish them all. Honestly, it was kind of fun. The key word being “was.” Doing and being on the go all the time was easier when I was younger. But over time, it has become more and more challenging and has hurt my personal relationship with the One who is most important.
The greatest detriment to that crazy life has been in the area of my times with my God. My wife once said, early on in ministry, that it felt like the family was getting leftover time. It was a wake up call and I needed to make adjustments. The same has been true with my relationship with God. So often I give Him leftover time. I know it’s important to spend time with Him in prayer and the Word, resting in His presence. But… alas, the best laid plans of mice and men…goes awry. Over the years, I have found it challenging to stay focused in my times with God. I have developed spiritual ADD. I began to bring a notepad with me to jot down things that pop into my mind. I have had to schedule appointments for my times with God so I would not neglect them. I have done all sorts of things to try to keep first things first. For the most part, through hard work, it’s gotten better. But good is not great. And as Jim Collins once wrote:
“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”
I want my relationship with God to be great. It needs to be great. He wants it to be great. Jesus demonstrated that throughout His time here on earth. Mary was affirmed for her desire to be great in this area:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
King David desired greatness:
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Ps. 27:4
That is my desire. If this is truly going to be the best decade of my life, it begins here, with greatness experienced in my relationship with my Father in heaven. That’s what this sabbatical is for. What a blessing to have this extended time to learn, to grow, to break bad habits, and allow God to rewire the way I think and the way I live. To experience great and not just good.
“Father, how amazing is your love for me. How great is your patience with me. How incompressible your grace is to allow me this time, after all these years stumbling and bumbling to get to a place of good, to grow and experience great. I am overwhelmed by your mercy and love. But I can’t do this on my own. I don’t have the power to break bad habits. I don’t have the power to rewire the way I think and live. I ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to transform me, to take me from good to great. Yes, I respond to Jesus’ invitation in Matt. 11:29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matt. 11:28-29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:28-29
another step …