This week marks the beginning of my 3 month sabbatical. After 7+ years of ministry at Marin Covenant Church and 15 + years of vocational ministry I get to take a break. As I begin this totally foreign season of rest and disengagement from my professional life, I am wrestling with a wide range of thoughts and emotions.
It is no joke that just about every day I thank God for how blessed I am and for dumping his grace on me. And one of the most practical ways that this has happened has been my call to MCC. Whenever I talk with my fellow youth workers and share life, I always, and I mean ALWAYS leave those conversations blown away at how good my church is to me. If you wanted to know what a church can do to care for their pastors, my church wrote the book.
One of the ways they care for their pastors is to send them on sabbatical every 7 years. And this week marks the beginning of this time. Truth be told, I had and still do have some reservations about leaving the ministry that consumes so much of my mental, emotional, and spiritual life for such a long period of time. But I have pulled the trigger and am disengaging.
I want to make the most of this time and come back renewed and recharged for my next season of ministry. My heart and call is so for MCC and I am trusting that this sacred rhythm will allow me to do better and deeper ministry in these next 7 years. I get that this is a gift, and I am so thankful for it! Because of that I am planning on taking this sabbatical seriously. Serious rest, serious reflection, and serious recreation. (Pretty nice alliteration, huh?)
In my entire professional career I have never taken a vacation longer than 10 days. I have never gone more than 2 weeks with out some sort of youth ministry program to fulfill. I have never been home for more than 4 nights in a week. And I have never simply come to a church for just one service. I am tired!
I am actually freaking out a little bit that for 3 entire months I will not have these responsibilities. I have some ideas and of course a plan. But I know that this plan is stupid because it is based on a worldview that is totally jacked. I can not get my head around being on vacation for more than 2 weeks. I can't get my mind around not being productive. And because of this I am totally excited for what God has to teach me in all of this.
For as much as I am excited to get to rest. I am equally unsettled. I have worked through most of it in the months leading up to this time off. But as I sit down to write this on my first Monday not in the office, it is difficult to not spin out about all the tasks that have to get done this week to keep our student ministry running.
Will my staff and volunteers step up? Will they crash and burn? What will fall through the cracks? Why does that even matter if it does? Will everyone do such a good job that they will realize that my job is not that needed? Will they suck it up so much that I will have to spend the next year rebuilding? Will I be out of sight and therefore out of mind? Will my students and friends move on?
I know that these are all messed up thoughts. Because the truth is I have an amazing staff and amazing students. I love them with all my heart and trust them totally. I am just unsettled because I obviously trust way too much in my own gifts and abilities and not in them and their faithfulness, and sadly it seems not even in God and his faithfulness. This growth of faith in others and in God is becoming a cornerstone of the growth that needs to happen in me.
I know that there is some good and hard work that I need to do with Jesus and with my family over these three months. I have slipped into some unhealthy work rhythms and even some unhealthy faith rhythms. I have been given a gift and I want to use it to its full. I plan on using these next 90 days to become healthy.
Like I mentioned above with my angst and lack of faith about trusting others with my student ministry, I know that I lean way to much on my own strength and my own abilities. Thankfully I am so exhausted from running at this crazy pace for 15 years that I welcome the rest. I can't even pretend to keep on going. Maybe there is something to this when I am weak, He is strong nonsense I read about in scripture.
I am expecting that I am going to have space to actually connect with Jesus over these next three months. I am expecting that as I do God is going to mess me up, reveal parts of my heart that have been hidden and unattended to. I am counting on the Holy Spirit speaking to me, healing me and transforming me. I am expecting God to renew my heart for Him and for my call to ministry!
I am expecting to overwhelm my family with my presence :) Everyone has gotten used to an hour a day of me and we have all found a way to make it work. I love my wife and kids and I know the love me. But the rhythm we have gotten into sucks! I am expecting to be present and ooze love on them to the point of suffocation. I can not wait for every morning, every day after school, every weekend, every dinner to be together. To actually serve them, pull my weight around the house, and actually get around to a couple of projects that have been on the to do list for years.
I am expecting to figure out what a healthy lifestyle looks like. I need to work this out so that for these next seven years I can be the man of God, the husband, the father, the pastor and friend that God desires for me to do. Right now I can almost do one of those at a time, to the detriment of the others. There is something broken in me and my expectations of myself that need to be healed.
How am I going to pull this off?
That is a great question. I don't even really know how to begin this journey. But I do know that a big part of fulfilling my expectations begins and ends with presence. Enjoying and soaking of the presence of God, the presence of my wife and kids, and the presence of my friends. In order to do this I need to put some parameters on the stuff that distracts and takes away from this.
I have been working on a little rule of life to live into over my sabbatical. This rule includes spiritual practices, family benchmarks, exercise, writing goals as well as some fasting and limiting of certain freedoms and vices.
One of those is my online life. For these next few months I am cutting out huge portions of my social networking lifestyle. I will only blog once a week and will rarely post on facebook. For this time my blog will be more of a blog in the classic sense, a web log, a web journal where I will share my thoughts and reflections about what God is doing in me during this sabbatical. The specific focus of student ministry will not shape the content, but I am sure that some of what I write will be about student ministry since that is what I have been called to do and am most passionate about doing in ministry.
As I round the corner on 1500 words I have to laugh at how aware I am of my little blog and the rules I have made for myself if some lame quest for online stardom. I look forward to getting over myself, to disengaging, and to share some reflections on this journey. I look forward to God meeting me and messing with me in huge ways. I look forward to investing in my prayer life for you as well and for trusting God to do big things in your life as well.
It is an act of faith to back off from my church community, and my on line community for three months. I want to believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I guess in 90 days we will know for sure :)
See you next Monday!