This is the last Saturday of my sabbatical. As I journaled away this morning, I am dazedly relaxed about what I’ve discovered about myself and God, life and ministry, culture and scripture over the past two months. When I began my sabbatical, I wrote Overwhelmed, and this stuck out to me from that entry:
As I drove away from the office Thursday for the last time for two months, I fought back tears. There are many reasons, but at the root, I’m overwhelmed… I’m overwhelmed by grace. Grace upon grace.
In some respects, this was the best time to be on sabbatical – during cultural upheaval and global crisis. In others, it was the worst. People need pastors during hard seasons of life, for crying out loud. However, people don’t need me. I am supremely grateful for our church staff leading, guiding, teaching and encouraging our church in my absence. It’s humbling and affirming to see that I am not needed for God to bless and comfort His people. It’s more satisfying than a Diet Cream Soda, peanuts and candy corn to realize that I am to be simply available and that I’m not indispensable to His work.
I think I’ll learn more from my sabbatical the farther away from it that I am. For this Type A, Type 1, INTJ, Intellection, Strategic, Achiever, Input, Belief-er, I knew how much I needed a time of sabbatical before I felt how much I needed it. It took almost three weeks to stop thinking.
I’ve got a lot of immediate reflections that I’ll amplify later. Here’s a glimpse:
- Decision fatigue is real.
- Sabbath-ing can not be avoided.
- Dangers in leading/following
- Doing nothing is doing something.
- Walking in intimacy with Jesus is life’s ultimate joy.
The main thing I wanted to do with this post is simply to celebrate. I did it! I took a sabbatical. It wasn’t perfectly executed, and it didn’t involve elaborate planning or expensive travel to exotic locations. It was simply a restful, relaxing, enjoyable, reflective, reading, and slow-paced life parenthesis. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and observations. I’m thankful for family, friends, and a church who made it possible. I am especially grateful for the wisdom and joy of being told to simply celebrate sabbatical.
What did I really do?
From other posts in this series, you’ll see a read a ton. I read helpful books, Christian books, fiction books, magazines, blogs, and even a few comic books (more on that later!). I took on some overdue home projects and even knocked out a few that I would have never done unless I’d had this time. I began writing a book about the life of Peter which I’m really excited about. After my book Super Center Savior, I knew I wanted to write another, but… life. busy. church. building. kids. schedule – you know.. all the things that led to sabbatical to begin with. You’ll hear more about progress and title and such soon. I maintained some of my regular routines and created new ones. Most importantly, I communed with God. I invited Him nearer, to which I continually heard Him say, “I can come no nearer than I came when you first believed in me.” It’s a joyfully astonishing realization. Because of His grace, He is near. Always. It is my awareness/busyness/lack of faith that causes a failure to experience the reality that He’s near (of course, more on that later).
What should you do as I emerge from my sabbatical cocoon?
If you’re just a reader of the blog, I’d encourage you to bookmark or subscribe so that you can glean more from what I learned. For family, friends, and church members (and many of you fit into all of the those categories), I’d ask you to be patient with me. I want to be both the same Jeff and a different Jeff, a better Jeff. I am flawed but full. I am overwhelmed but overjoyed. I am quietly prayerful and also crying out.
I see my reentry as being a slow ramp up. I am not returning to ministry with a “head full of steam” or “10 things we need to do immediately.” Rather, I want to listen and lean and learn. I am eager to hear from our church leadership teams about their experiences the past two months. I expect to discover numerous ways that God has been demonstrably active (can’t wait to belatedly praise Him!). More than anything, I hope to be a joyful, bold, gracious, and peaceful incarnation of Jesus. I want ease in and reflect Him with vivid brilliance. He is worthy.
Some of you are still hung up on my mention of comic books. Some are disgusted by Diet Cream Soda. Others are intrigued by the combination of peanuts and candy corn (it’s like manna). Others want more reflections now (be patient).
Still others wondered if I would return from sabbatical at all. I did too at times.
For now, I’m celebrating the completion of sabbatical (and highly highly recommending it to other pastors and ministers – if you need help communicating with your church, see this entry). Here’s my celebratory sabbatical dance: