Last Sunday, our pastor’s sermon prompted Marion and me to take a five-week period (up til the end of May) as a sabbatical from all church and ministry commitments.
I am the kind of person who tends to take on a fair number of commitments. The Lord had already used circumstances to slow me down a bit by dropping an unplanned and unpaid staycation into my lap (see Life in the Hallway). Marion normally lives at a slower pace than I do, but an unexpected job offer (see God’s Sense of Humour) has increased her pace quite a bit. So both of us are adjusting to a different routine. At the same time, many things have been changing at church, and we have been doing a lot of reflecting, pondering and praying. This past Sunday we both realized that we were being directed to take some time to step back from our usual ministry commitments and get our bearings.
It’s odd that we would find this unusual. The Sabbath principle is essential to a healthy walk of faith, whatever your convictions about the manner in which it is best lived out. Put simply, we need to learn to rest. I find that it is not until I step back from situations and take some time away that I can see more clearly. Jesus often took time away from situations to get alone and pray. Over the past few days, after having made the decision to take this period of time for reflection, I’ve been taking time to read through the Book of Proverbs (which was a favourite when I was a newer Christian, so it’s like returning to an old friend) as well as doing a lot of journalling, reflecting on my personal calling and on some ministry-related issues that I won’t go into here, and some key issues are becoming more clear to me. Some of the things God has shown me have been realizations that have dawned on me as I was going about some mundane task – mowing the lawn, hanging out laundry, delivering flyers for a community cleanup day. I find this is often the way it works. I read, pray and journal, and much valuable insight does come while I am engaged in these “spiritual” tasks, but often the real nuggets of insight are dropped into my lap when I turn my attention to something else. I guess it’s partly because I have developed the habit of keeping a running dialogue with God going on in the background, no matter what else is going on – and especially when I am engaged in activities that don’t require a lot of conscious thought.
Socrates was not a follower of Christ – he was a Greek philosopher who lived five centuries before the time of Jesus – but he was a man of considerable wisdom. At his trial for heresy he stated that the unexamined life is not worth living. I believe this is a statement of which Jesus would approve. Solomon, in his day reputed to be the wisest man on earth, states in Proverbs 20:27
the lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man;
it searches out his inmost being
I want to have the mind of Christ on the situations in my life, so I need to step back periodically and let the Lord shine the light of His Word and Spirit on the contents of my heart and mind, to bring His order, clarity and peace.
We live in a fast-paced society. Our culture values leisure and recreation, but not solitude or reflection. I want to encourage each of you to make sure you take time periodically to step back, take some time away from your usual responsibilities, and get your bearings. It could be life-changing.