What A Pastoral Sabbatical Means to Me
Tomorrow begins my first pastoral sabbatical. Every pastor at New Life who has been on staff for seven years or more is being given a one month sabbatical that can be combined with vacation time. Mine will be six weeks. I'm grateful for the time and want to be a good steward of it. So, here's what it means to me:
1. A time not to create but to enjoy what has been created.
I spend much of my energy creating. A sabbatical is a time to remember that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. I create because He created and still creates. It's good to stop and watch God's creative work of revelation and redemption continue without me!
The places Holly and I have chosen to spend our time are places where God's creation is unmistakably on display. Between the three locations, we'll see mountains and beaches, colorful flowers and sandy white beaches. We'll feel the rain and taste salty water. And as we are stilled and hushed by God's work, I will remember how all my work is wrapped up in Him.
2. A time not to write or teach but to listen and learn.
Believe it or not, I won't blog, check email, write articles or anything close to it. As a teacher/pastor I find myself all too willing to offer advice, provide solutions, or attempt explanations. This will be a time of input not output.
There are a few books Holly and I will read together, some fiction, some non-fiction. There are also books we'll read on our own. We've carefully chosen subjects and themes that seem to be "right" for this season. We have also set aside a few mornings to meet with some of our mentors so we can be directed spiritually and prayerfully.
3. A time not to work but to rest.
Ah, yes. Sleeping in. No early morning meetings, no need to rush out of the house. Long, leisurely breakfasts, and prolonged pajama time. Need I say more?
4. A time not to produce but to play.
I admit: I will be getting reacquainted with my PS3! But more than that, I am so looking for to playing with my girls…not just living around them…but living with them, reading to them; not worried about being productive, but being fully present.
Sophia (our almost-four-year old) said to me this week, "Dad, I can't wait for sabbatical!" Me too, dear.
5. A time not to react or respond, but initiate and pursue.
I won't be on Facebook, my phone will be off most of the time, and my laptop will be ignored. Why? Because I don't want to live reactively– responding to questions or emails or texts. I want to initiate relationship. First with the Lord, but also with my wife. I want to dust off the art of pursuit. Living in a relationally reactive way has made my love lazy. To be free of contact that I do not initiate is to be free to pursue.
There you have it. Now, to be helpful to this sacred time, it would be wonderful to not come back to a barrage of voicemails or emails…either in my work email, my gmail, or my Facebook inbox. Please give me time to not be worried about the work that is piling up. Help my "re-entry" be smooth not stressful.
Thanks for listening and understanding. I am grateful for all my readers and friends.
Talk to you in May!!