Being on a sabbatical has been very interesting. As it so often is following the Lord, it hasn’t gone as I expected. Dale Wolyniak wrote in a very helpful booklet, Sabbaticals for Minsters, “A ministry sabbatical is ideally quite different from a traditional academic sabbatical or a sabbatical practiced in business. It is about the spirit and soul being refreshed, renewed, and redirected.” Preparing for this sabbatical, I began to relish the thought of being refreshed.
Being in ministry all these years and starting a church have been amazing. I cannot imagine doing anything else. Enjoy the friendships, serving alongside the greatest people, and making new friends along the way have been the greatest! I thank God all the time for the privilege of serving him in this capacity. It’s been awesome! But little did I know how much emotional energy was spent and how “tired” I had become. Entering my seventh decade adds to this as well. All the leadership challenges, the weekly gearing up for worship services, administrative responsibilities, emergencies, tragedies, relational challenges and conflicts, criticism, and continual spiritual warfare does take a toll. Yup, after 27 years of ministry, I realized I was a bit weary. It showed up in sleep challenges, physical ailments and difficulty dealing emotionally with things that should have been no big deal. Now, this is not meant to be a sob story. No, not at all. Yes, during this sabbatical, I discovered how weary I was. But more importantly, far more importantly, I have experienced the extreme goodness and love of God my Father. It has been a humbling but gratifying experience to see and experience firsthand how much God loves me. I am beginning to see the light!
I struggled with the idea of taking a sabbatical, especially at this important season in our church. Honestly, I really didn’t want to go, not now. But through the counsel and encouragement of some amazing individuals and elders, I decided to go through with it. The quote from Dale Wolyniak resonates with me more and more during this sabbatical adventure. Being refreshed was so appealing to me as I began. My spirit and soul cried out, as well as my body, for refreshment. And yes, God has been faithful.
Eugene Peterson wrote in an article, Sabbatical Is Not Study Leave, words that have challenged and inspired me during this sabbatical.
“If we are going to take sabbaticals, let them be real sabbaticals: a willed passivity in order to be resorted to alert receptivity to spirit-prayer, silence, solitude, worship. It is outrageous that we acquiesce to the world’s definition of our word and let our unique, biblical sabbatical be put to the use of career advancement, psychological adjustment, and intellectual polish–with all the prayer and contemplation laundered out. The original intent of Sabbath is a time to be silent and listen to God, not attend lectures; a time to be in solitude and be with God, not “interact” with fatigued peers. If help is to be given to the pastor in midcourse, it is not going to come by infusion of intellect, but by renewal of spirit.”
Powerful words that I am taking to heart. I marvel how God has so orchestrated the events in my life to teach me a great lesson–how to abide in Him. I often think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
I am praying more and more, especially in this sabbatical season that Jesus would teach me and I would find rest for my soul. I have slowly begun to feel refreshed. I am slowly understanding what is at God’s heart for my sabbatical. I am slowly learning that “…it is not going to come by infusion of intellect, but by renewal of spirit.”
Believe it or not, I am enjoying the journey more and focusing less on getting to wherever I am going, physically and spiritually.
As far as being renewed and redirected…well that’s a story for another day. Thank you, Jesus, for teaching me to rest. Thank you for your faithfulness, patience and goodness. I am humbled by your love for me. Thank you!
btw, props to my son John for taking the pics. Thanks, John!