Day #1 back from Sabbatical...

"I must remember before I forget…"

That thought kept running through my mind last night into this morning.

Like anything, the tyranny of the urgent can cause me to forget anything else but what’s in front of my face.  All the goodness of the last few months could be a distant memory as I plunge headlong into ministry again.  Maybe more likely, the goodness and busyness of ministry could distract me from the important things that God showed me on my sabbatical.  I don’t want to forget and yet I know how prone I am to do just that.

My mind was all over the place last night…mostly filled with lies whispered so believably into my heart that I had to take a long run on our back country road and just shout them down.  When I say shout them down, I mean yell out loud at the intruding thoughts and speak truth to the lies…

“Nothing’s fundamentally changed inside you.”
That’s not true, I know I’m living from a different place of identity.

“Didn’t you think you’d feel more than this at the end of it?”
I didn’t know what I would feel, but I’m fine with what I feel right now.

“Then why are you nervous to go back?”
It’s not that I don’t want to, I think it’s ok that I feel some of those nerves.

“You should have spent more time with your family.”
Are you kidding me?  I soaked in all the time I could wringing every drip out of each moment.

“Didn’t you think you’d be further along than you are right now?”
Maybe so, but I’m not faking anything…I’m very comfortable in my skin right now. 

“It was almost as if nothing happened.” (this one was skipping on repeat in my mind)
It did happen…and it was so, so good.  I will never forget it as long as I live.

“You’re going to get swallowed up and lose all your disciplines.”
I fear that, but I feel a strength I didn’t possess before to exercise mastery over my life.

“You’re going to hear a bunch of bad news that you’ve been shielded from.”
Bring it on…I have the capacity to handle it and I was made to bring redemption to the present.

“Didn’t you think all those adventures and trips were going to leave you more fulfilled?”
They did what they can do and I’m grateful, but fulfilment is found in pleasing Christ, not trips.

“There are so many things you don’t know that have happened in your absence…man, oh, man.”
What is that supposed to do inside me?  Are you kidding me?  Of course there was.

“You’re not needed anymore.  You were hardly missed, in fact, people enjoyed doing the things that you normally do and you’re going take that away from them.”
I’m proud of the people who stepped into my role and did so with passion and proficiency.  I’m glad things went well in my absence.  Everything is going to be just fine.

“Are you sure you even want to go back?  Why the hesitation?”
Oh, I’m sure.  The hesitation comes from making the abrupt transition from personal freedom and family time to being a servant of Jesus’ church.  I’m gonna let myself feel honesty in that reorientation.

“Everything is going to go back to the same place it was…you know that, right?”
Not if I can help it…and I can.  God has given me the free will to choose how to act and react.  I may not be able to choose as easily how I feel, but I can make decisions about what kind of life I create.  I want to hold onto what was good before and to leave behind what wasn’t.  It’s that simple.

“There are still parts of you that are weak and undisciplined.  Can you believe it?”
I know, but I’ll never be perfect.  I’m on a journey taking one step at a time.  I’ll keep working on areas of weakness bit by bit and God’s grace will fill in the gaps where I fall short.

“People are expecting you to be a whole new man.”
I don’t want to base my life on the expectations of man or the approval of man.  I want to live out God’s purposes for my life for His pleasure.  That’s all I can do and that’s a good day.

“What if you are less impressive after this sabbatical than before?”
I already said, I want to be who I am, nothing more and nothing less.  If I am better, wonderful.  If I am worse, so be it.  I want a congruent, aligned life inside and out.  That’s what I really want.

“Aren’t you just a little scared that you don’t have what it takes for the next leg of Impact’s life cycle?”
Yep.  But I have felt that for years at about every impasse.  Sometime I just have to lead afraid and trust that God will work out his strength in my weakness.  You’re not suggesting something that’s never occurred to me.

“This feeling of child-like love for people…how long is this going to last once you’re in the trenches again?”
God showed me my inborn love for people.  It’s always been there.  It was deposited by God and fanned into flame by my parents.  It’s not going anywhere…it’s who I am.

“You are still ruled by your emotions…feelings eclipse truth.”
I am a very emotional human, I’ll give you that.  But I trust the truth even when it disagrees with my feelings.  I will continue to fight the good fight to let the truth reign over my feelings.

“Why don’t you feel more of a burning desire to preach?  That seems weird.”
I’ve been wondering that myself, but it’s not because I don’t love to preach or wasn’t called to preach.  I just don’t think it defines me.  My identity is not attached to it the same way.  I’m ok with being behind the scenes and as well as in front of the crowd.

“You are pretty alone right now…are you afraid friends have moved on?”
I don’t feel alone.  I feel like God has been a faithful friend and my family has taken their rightful place as close confidants, especially my wife.  My friendships will be just fine…we’ll pick up where we left off.  If some of them are different upon my return, I’m good with that.

“You’re going to quit running and working out once you realize you don’t have time.”
I don’t think you realize how important having a healthy body, mind, and soul is to me now.  My soul needs my body to be healthy as much as my body needs my soul to be healthy.  I won’t go back to unhealthy physical habits.

“Well then exercise has become a god to you and you’re all about outward appearance.”
I have to keep that in check.  I don’t want it to become an obsession or something that I put misplaced affection in.  My body is God’s temple and I want it to be fit for his purposes.  Stop telling me what I’m going to do or not do, feel or not feel!

“Aren’t you saddened that all the things you looked forward to are over?”
There is an appropriate mourning that I’m going through, for sure.  The time with my wife, the kids, the trips, the memories, the adventures, the alone time…I think it’s ok to feel sad those things have come and gone.  But I’m so grateful to be blessed with all those experiences.  They happened and they still matter deep inside me…cool things were etched into my heart in those moments.

“Kami is leaving in a few weeks…that is going to devastate you.”
It’s true…this 18-year window is coming to a close, but a new door is opening up in her life and our relationship.  I will be naturally sad to see her leave, but I’m very excited for what God has in store for her future.  I think we will be even better friends in the days to come.  I know you’re trying to go all ‘fatalistic’ on me, but I’m not gonna take the bait.  The best is yet to come.

“Well, it’s over. Back to the grind.”
The sabbatical is over, but I love my calling.  I was not called to rest the rest of my life.  I was called to be in the battle for people’s souls and to introduce them to Jesus, the Freedom-giver.  I am meant for more than safety and security…I am made for risk and danger…I am made to encourage people to advance with Christ into the world and bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. 

I have to remember these things so I don’t forget.  Lies will seek to dismantle truth.  I have to speak truth to those lies every day, every hour, every minute, every moment.

I will not be baited into throwing myself into the fray…I will step in deliberately and naturally.

God has showed me that life isn’t meant to be lived “a mile a minute”, but “a step a second”.  Each step will lead me to the next step until I’m standing before God, the righteous judge, my heavenly Father.  I hope to hear Him say, “Way to go, Jay, you were faithful in the little stuff.  Well done, son.  I love you.”

That happens when I fight off the ambush of lies with the artillery of truth.  That’s how all of us make it in the throes of resistance.  I pray God gives all of his children the truth that sets them free today.

It’s Day #1 and I’m ready.


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