Sabbatical is such a resource to ministers of the gospel. It is a great opportunity for extended times of connection with God, learning something new, and purposeful rest. I was truly grateful to be able to take some time off to recharge my soul. Below are some things I learned through books I read and things I experienced.
I need people: Again, a pretty simple truth, but very profound. I got to spend time over my sabbatical seeing friends from college and our time in Italy. These are people that have known me for a long time, and are like family to me. Often in ministry, you need to be a certain kind of leader and servant. These are things I strive to imitate Jesus in, but just as Jesus spent time alone with His three closest disciples, we need to spend time with people who just refresh and recharge us. It was great to spend time outdoors, praying and sharing what we are learning about Jesus.
I need to embrace my phase of life: At age 31, it can be really easy to evaluate what things I have done, experienced and achieved in the 10+ years after graduating from college. In this evaluation it can be easy to feel like I have not done enough, or to daydream if I had made different choices where I would be. I read a study on phases of an adult man’s life, from a seminal study done in the 1980’s called, “Passages” written about in the book “Season of a Man’s Life”. This is a very normal feeling for someone in their late twenties/early thirties, and one of the challenges in this reality is that because you probably have a lot of life left, you start to imagine what different roads you could take. It can often feel easy to feel stuck in this thought, and wondering where it is God would take you on a journey over the next 50 some years of your life. But the truth that has struck me, and the promise I long to cling to is this: no matter where I go, God is leading me and God is journeying with me.
I am White: This may sound like an extremely simple statement, and you may be asking yourself “Why did you have to take a month sabbatical to figure that one out?”. I read Daniel Hill’s book White Awake, which chronicles his story to becoming culturally awake. Hill shares a story of being at a friends wedding. This friend is Indian, and there are a whole week of Indian celebrations attached to a wedding. Daniel went up to his friend and said how much he appreciated all of the culture at the wedding and how he longed to have that culture in his own life. His friend graciously replied that Daniel did have his own culture, he is white, from European heritage, with its own beautiful things to appreciate. Daniel didn’t know that he was white because in America when white culture comes into contact with any other culture it tends to take-over that culture, and white people are left thinking things are just “normal” when in fact other cultural expressions may not be expressed to their fullest. This was a fascinating read, and one thing I am learning is that in the areas of wanting to express a rich cultural diversity, actively pursuing what God promises us will be before His throne in Heaven, the first step is realizing one’s own culture. In realizing one’s own culture we appreciate the ways our culture was made in the image of God, and are also able to freely critique the ways culture has become broken through sin. As we did this with our own culture, we are able to more freely engage with other cultures, seeing the image of God glorified in our world.