Today is April 25th and it marks my first day back in the office in four weeks. I am sitting at my desk with a different outlook on who I am, what I do, and why I do it. It would mean a lot to me if you would take a few minutes to read through this post about my 4 week sabbatical from Christ Community.
In 2015 the Elders discussed the ifs, whys, and whens Pastoral staff would have the opportunity for a sabbatical. The Elders decided to provide a sabbatical for the primary purpose of finding rest in God and rejuvenation in the work of pastoral ministry.
First I want to say how incredibly grateful I am to Christ Community for allowing me to have this time. It has been both refreshing and life altering. While I hesitate to say ‘life altering’, I feel like it has been.
What did I do for four weeks?
As the most common question I received while I was away --and though I was never afraid of it-- I was often curious if there was a critical heart behind that question. I know most people do not get the gift of 4 weeks away from their normal job. So here is what I did.
The week before the sabbatical started, I spent an hour each night writing down things I wanted to think about, work through, and accomplish. The list ranged from time with Camille to exercise. I also started a book written by someone who had taken a 4 month sabbatical and it served as a road map for me.
Starting on Monday March 28th I began walking every morning for thirty minutes to an hour. While walking, I listened to books using the App Audible, which was a total game changer for me. During my sabbatical I read 9 books. I will probably post about the books I read at a later time but everyone who knows me, knows that for this dyslexic guy to read 9 books in a month is INSANE! The books covered topics like marriage, faith, personal worship, theology, life planning, leadership, God’s love, and a couple of the Chronicles of Narnia. I have a lot of take-aways from these books and I hope they stay fresh in my mind and life.
I journaled. I wrote almost every day. I wrote what I was learning and what I was thinking, which was interesting and more helpful for me that I expected. I have decided to always carry a journal with me.
One of my favorite parts of my sabbatical was when Camille and I took a trip to DC together to visit some dear friends. We hadn’t been on a trip for more than one night in a very long time. In a house with three kids it is easy to overlook what you love and like about each other. I am as excited about our marriage as I have ever been.
We went to Big Canoe for a few days. I went up for two days alone and read and prayed and thought through some things I had wanted to work on. The family joined me on Tuesday during the kids’ spring break and we played on porch swinging beds, went fishing, hiked, and took a boat ride.
I made goals. Goals for myself, my marriage, my parenting, and my occupation. Goal-making was and is hard for me. I am still not done with it, but I am close. I met with our own Fred Munzenmaier to talk about my physical health. I am committed to being more emotionally and spiritually engaged with my friends and I will continue to read my bible and books to be encouraged spiritually.
The phrase ‘lean in’ has been very present in my vocabulary over the past 6 months and it kept coming up in my time away. I read it in two of my books and the second time I read it, I looked back in my journal from the week before my sabbatical started and there was the phrase ‘lean in’. I did that. I walked down tough emotional roads that I think we would all prefer not to walk down. I asked a lot of questions of myself. The greatest thing I kept hearing from scripture, books, my kids, and Camille was that I am loved. Me. The most imperfect one in the room. I am loved.
Years of my life have been spent trying to be something that people would like, be impressed with, and be encouraged by. My walk away from this time is that the wrestling match that I have created with an invisible person had worn on my emotional, spiritual and physical health. Over the last year God has really impressed on my heart my inability to love people and not shame them for being themselves. I think that in my fear of people not liking my ideas, thoughts, or preferences I have lost myself. I lost my silly side because I fear how people would react. I have hidden my emotions because it was easier to not share them than have someone reject or devalue my feelings.
My hope is to believe that the ‘empty handed and broken hearted are who Jesus came for’-Alex Early.
I am both of those. I am praying for God to continue to enlarge my heart that I might know him more and that I would be the husband, father, son, friend, worship leader, employee, mentor, and volunteer that God has created me to be. I am excited to see Jesus continue to create resilience in my heart.
The reality of who God is had somehow been altered in my mind to make him out to be the being I felt like God should be. The hope that I have for my future is brighter than the dim pictures I have painted in the past.