10 Things I Learned During Sabbatical – Part I

Yesterday, I returned to work after being off for a month long sabbatical.

When I told my dad I was going on a sabbatical he asked me what in the world it was (reread that phrase, insert a slight country accent when you read it and you’ll read it like my dad said it). A Sabbatical, in the ministry sense, is an extended time of rest for the purpose of rest and rejuvenation. After I told my dad what it was he told me that it was ridiculous, but that he was jealous!

I feel extremely humbled and privileged to work at an organization that values the long term health of their employees and provides an opportunity to take a sabbatical.

Over the course of the month I went completely Jason Bourne. I was off the grid completely.  My computer was stored away, I used a different phone and I traveled all over the place. There were no shoot outs, motorcycle chases through small European towns or fist fights, but it was as close as I’m getting to embody Bourne, so I’ll take it.

There was some time in Breckenridge due to the generosity of friends, Denver, a family trip to New York, a stint at a Catholic retreat center, a night in my hometown, and a little staycation in the ATX.

I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect on the lessons learned over the course of the month and wanted to share those with you.

10 Things I Learned During Sabbatical (Part I)

1. Seek first the kingdom. Jesus commands us to seek first the kingdom, but I always struggled to know what that meant. Yet, as I studied Matthew 6 more intently the words seem to jump off the page more clearly. Naturally, to seek first the kingdom we must live a God first life. In the context of the passage, it means a life that serves God and not money, treasures God deeply, and chooses a life of faith over the life of anxiety. We must have heaven as our end, the kingdom as our present, God’s glory as our purpose, love as our intention and holiness as our means.

2. If you want to change the world, go home and love your family. That’s a quote from Mother Theresa and it’s true. God reminded me that outside of loving him that I was to prioritize my family. They are more important than my work and ministry. Your family is arguably God’s greatest gift. They deserve the best of you, not your leftovers. Frederick Douglas once said that it was easier to build strong children than repair broken men. I want to raise strong children who bless the world rather than needing to be repaired by it. Chels, Davy girl, and baby boy Frazier (and how many ever more come along) will get the best of me.

3. Wisdom. True biblical wisdom is found in first fearing God (Prov. 9:10), seeking it as hidden treasure (Prov. 2:4), knowing that it’s better than material wealth (Prov. 8:11), pursuing instruction, valuing discipline (Prov. 19:20), having an abundance of counselors (Prov. 11:14), and obeying the words of Jesus (Matt. 7:24). Wisdom was one of my main pursuits during my time away and will continue to be throughout my life. She is calling out in the streets and if we listen she will pour out her spirit and make her words known to us (Prov. 1:23).

4. True peace is found from above and within. So often I seek peace for my soul in vacation, travel, new experiences or others, but it has always alluded me or not remained for long. God revealed it was because I was always looking in the wrong place. True peace comes from him (Phil. 4:6-8), abiding in Jesus (Matt. 11:28, Jn. 15), and from cultivating a inner peace within yourself. Emperor Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills; and you too are especially inclined to feel this desire. But this is altogether unphilosophical, when it is possible for you to retreat into yourself at any time you want. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind, especially if he has within himself the kind of thoughts that let him dip into them and so at once gain complete ease of mind; and by ease of mind, I mean nothing but having one’s own mind in good order.” Aurelius wasn’t a Christian, but he understood the need for inner peace, which we know comes from a life ordered by God.

5. Freedom. We have been set free in Christ (Gal. 5:1), but so many of us still live as slaves. Slaves to comfort, power, influence, approval, materialism, status, control, or others. One of the men I stayed with during my break told me that my generation doesn’t know much about freedom and I agree with him. As I was reading Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters I came across a quote that I want to meditate upon daily – “Freedom, true freedom, is having nothing to gain, nothing to lose and nothing to prove”. In Christ, we have access to this type of freedom. We can say as Paul said, “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. I want to live this life as a free man in mind, body and soul.

There is much more to share, but you’ll have to wait until the next post!

 

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