Last post I discussed the lessons God taught me during my month long sabbatical and I covered everything from what it means to seek the kingdom to what it means to find true freedom in Christ.
If you missed part one you can check that out here.
10 Things I Learned During Sabbatical – Part II
6. My mom’s death. I was able to take some time of solitude due to my amazing wife and during some time of reflection I realized that I hadn’t fully moved on from my mom’s death. My mom was a force to be reckoned with and much of the life source of my personal drive. There has been a void that I haven’t known how to fill that has left me paralyzed for over a year. Yet, God gently led me to this truth – it was time to move on. I wrote in my journal that I wasn’t to forget her, but that I needed to take her with me and honor her with my days on earth. We know that are days are determined (Job 14:5) and we must fight to live them well. I want to live in a way that glorifies God and that my mom would be proud of when we see each other again.
7. Service. The late Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian Henri Nouwen was one of my spiritual guides during my time. I dove into a handful of books that he penned that deeply challenged me. There were two lines that seared themselves into my mind. “…it is only as people who are given that we can fully understand our being chosen, blessed, and broken. In the giving it becomes clear that we are chosen, blessed and broken not simply for our own sakes, but so that all we live find its final significance in its being lived for others.” Second, he wrote, “Only when you are emptied – when you have nothing to lose – you will have everything to give.” To find final significance we must die to ourselves (be emptied) and follow our Savior in coming to serve and not be served (Mark 10:45).
8. Don’t be afraid of the adventure of risk. These were spoken over me by a man I deeply respect as he gave me life wisdom. In a study done by Dr. Anthony Campolo, he asked the elderly, “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” One of the top responses was “take more risks”. I like to think I take risks, but most of the time they are risks that are barely outside of my comfort zone. We tend to be creatures of comfort that become fearful of the shadows of risks. No more. Life is too short. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Throw off the bowlines people.
9. Happiness. I spent an inordinate amount of time studying happiness. What makes us happy? And I’m not talking a shallow, American version of happiness. I’m talking about deep, God-grounded, Christ-exalting joy that flows out into the happy life. For the Christian, God is the source of our happiness, but practically how do we stir up this happiness within us? God’s word speaks often of this if we would only look for it. Happiness is found in delighting in the Word, meditating upon it day and night, prayer (Ps. 1), companionship (Acts 2), eating, drinking (in moderation people), laughing, enjoying one’s work (all of Ecclesiastes), appreciating nature (Ps. 19:1), giving yourself away (Acts 20:35), children (Ps. 137:5-7), and obeying the teachings of Jesus (Matt. 5-7).
10. Be Yourself. In a similar study to Dr. Campolo’s that I mentioned above, there was a book written titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. One of the regrets was not having the courage to live a life true to themselves and caving into what others expected of them. I have spent a lot of my life trying to be someone else, live up to others expectations of me and, at times, hating myself for not being something other than what I am. Guys, you can’t be anyone but who God made you to be. Sure, you can become a more sanctified version of yourself, a more godly version, but be free to be distinctively you. Ironically, it’s only through self-acceptance (understanding who God is and who He made you to be) that we can truly become who God desires us to be. It was David Benner who wrote, “Self-acceptance always precedes genuine self-surrender and self-transformation.” You have been knit together personally by God who has fearfully and wonderfully made you (Psalm 139). Live the life that only you can live. Offer the gifts that only you can offer. You and the world you inhabit will be better off because of it.
Overall, the sabbatical was great, but I realized that the fruit of silence and solitude can only be tested in the furnace of activity. We were not built to be isolated, we were created for community. We were not made for rest alone, but to work six days and rest one. It’s within the crucibles of every day life that produce fruit, not its ease.
Now on to work and the 800+ emails waiting for me in my inbox!