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Prepping for Sabbatical – Part 1 – Doing vs. Being

I’m a ‘do-er.’ If I see that something needs to be done, I tend to do it. This is true around our house all the time. Whether it’s mowing the lawn, fixing a piece of broken furniture, refinishing a table, or painting a room, I like to get in there and do something.

This past winter, I told Rebecca that I’d enjoy having a project or two around the house on my days off. It’s therapeutic for me to accomplish tasks, and I didn’t want to be bored, so I thought I could do a little sprucing up in my free time. We agreed on some projects and I got to work. That was January. By the middle of May, I had, virtually on my own, painted 5 rooms (including all of the woodwork and three ceilings), refinished a buffet table, changed 5 light fixtures, laid new tile in our entryway, and painted all of the kitchen cabinets. And for the most part, I enjoyed it! I certainly wasn’t bored! There’s something about reveling in tackling and completing a project. I have to say that after that season of projects, I was ready for a break.

I tend to approach a lot of things that way in life… It needs done, so I jump in and do it. After a while, I come up for air, weary and worn-down, ready for a break. Good work gets done, but the pace can’t be sustained long-term.

God knew we couldn’t sustain a break-neck pace like that in our daily lives, which is why He created the rhythm of the ‘Sabbath’ day. The Sabbath is a day of rest, focused on worship and renewal. This rhythm of work and rest is integral to how life is lived best. We need to work hard, doing our best, fulfilling our calling, and then step away for rest and renewal and worship. That’s supposed to be the rhythm every week – 1 day of Sabbath, 6 days of work. It’s the third of the 10 Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)

We would do well to keep this rhythm, and yet most in our society today do not. The Sabbath day (which was practiced on Saturdays, but shifted to Sundays after Jesus’ resurrection), is usually just another day on the calendar. We might go to church for a while in the morning, but usually daily tasks creep in and we treat the day like any other. Or maybe even worse, we treat it as a day to indulge ourselves. We do what we want to do, and so, instead of being a day focused on God and on rest, it becomes a day all about us.

And actually, in the Old Testament, that rhythm of rest was to be expanded to years – Every 7th year was supposed to be a ‘Sabbatical’ year (Leviticus 25:1-13 and Exodus 23:10-11). The farmers were supposed to rest their land and let it “lie fallow.” God promised a bumper crop the year before in order to carry them through. Practicing the Sabbatical year was a big step of trust in the goodness of the Lord to provide for his people. The seventh year of renewal included generosity for the needy, as the poor in the land were free to glean in the fallow ground during the Sabbatical year. People who had sold themselves into slavery were also given their freedom without cost (Exodus 21:2-6), and debts were canceled in that seventh year (Deuteronomy 15:1-6).

It’s probably not surprising that many people did not practice the Sabbatical year, exercising their trust in God.

Now enter the idea of a pastoral sabbatical into all of this. What if pastors and churches took time, every so often, to practice this reset, this renewing, this restoring kind of time? What if the shepherd of a church could step out of the daily tasks of ministry for a season in order to be renewed and strengthened? Wouldn’t it make sense that the pastor and the church would be stronger and healthier in the long run if that happened?

That’s what we’re doing in October and November. Starting on October 11th, I’ll be stepping away from my daily and weekly pastoral duties at Medina Naz and taking a Sabbatical. I’ll be away 8 Sundays, until the week of December 2nd.

During that time, I will serve on a mission trip in Peru, attend our District Pastor’s and Spouse’s Retreat, spend personal time at a Pastoral Retreat Center, and even take a weekend at a silent Monastery. I’ll worship at different churches, not just to get new ideas, but simply to worship, without being involved or in charge. I’ll also be at home some, walking through rhythms of family life and deepening our relationships, with God and each other. The plan is to disengage from regular responsibilities in order to experience Christ more fully so that He will ‘restore my soul.’

No, I’m not feeling all that ‘burnt out.’ I’m not frazzled with ministry. I’m not depressed. I’m not ready to resign. I’m not heading toward a breakdown (I don’t think!). I’m simply trying to be obedient to step out of ‘DOING’ all the time, and take some time to ‘BE…’

Be in God’s presence…

Be a child of the King…

Be loved by my Father in heaven…

Be still and know that He is God…

I think we’ll all be better followers of Jesus because of it.

Thank you for this opportunity, and for praying as we step into this journey in a few weeks!

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