Preparing my return from the Sabbatical...

As I think about returning to ministry in a couple weeks, I feel recently as if I'm slowly trying to prepare myself for reentry.  That might sound strange, but when you're "out of it" for as long as I've been, new patterns and perspectives develop that are unique to the sabbatical ecosystem.  The question I wrestle with is whether I will be able to maintain these healthy rhythms once I return to the trenches of the pastorate.  

It’s fairly easy to be disciplined with praying, reading, relaxing, writing, running, lifting, family time, recreation, marriage, etc. when you don’t have anything else nipping at your heals.  But when the vascillating variables of ministry are reintroduced, will I be able to maintain the attitudes and actions that have stabilized me over the last few months?  The thought of getting caught in the undertow of ministry and the riptide of “real life” makes me uneasy, almost queasy.

I know that I’m created to bring light to darkness.  I’m not created to live the monastic life of a desert father far from the ills that plague humanity.  I’m meant for more than a disinfected, sanitized existence where life is squeaky clean and crystal clear.  I’m made to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve enjoyed a reprieve from the onslaught of struggle and suffering in our world.  Sometimes it’s so pervasive that I lose a sense of who I am while I'm trying to help others.  I truly want things to be different when I return.  I don’t want to be drawn back into the drama.  I want to continue to be anchored to who and how God is even as I deal with who and how I am, as well as who and how people are.  Again, this is life east of Eden and west of Heaven last I checked, so there’s no way to find a perfect place of peace.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

But I long to remember in the dark what God has shown me in the light.  What I mean is that I feel He’s cultivated some good stuff in my life and I want to lean back into that when I feel buried in the burdens.  I want to remember “the goodness of God in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27) I want to know that he is my portion when I am sapped and tapped.  I want to know that he is my great reward when it doesn’t feel like I’m seeing the outcomes I had hoped for in the timing I expected.  I want to cling to his presence when I feel alone in a feeling.  I want to continue to work out and take care of my body when everything around me is minimizing the need for physical health so long as I offer good spiritual, relational, and organizational leadership.  I want to hold onto the love that God has for me regardless of my performance…that “I am His boy, and that I’m a good boy”.  That’s an easy one to lose.

I don’t want to be driven by people pleasing, but to continue to look above for my sense of significance.  I don’t want to get caught up in numbers as my grade card of success…the “how many and how much” paradigm has to be taken to the gallows and strung up for good.  I don’t want be preoccupied when I’m home with the pressing issues of my day’s work…I long to make a clean break as I travel home between ministry and family.  Not an easy assignment, but I’ve so enjoyed being present with my family…I want as much of that as possible...but it won’t come without a fight.

Above all, I want to maintain my friendship with Jesus while serving Him.  I don’t want to do things for him as much as with him.  I want what I feel now—this amazing relaxed friendship—to be the fountain I serve from.  And that’s another thing, I want to see myself as a servant, not a leader.  I know that we have come up with a term “Servant-Leader”, but honestly when you read the Scriptures, Jesus was pretty clear that the so-called leaders in His Kingdom where the servants.  So to be a friend of God and a servant of people keeps me in the pocket of my purpose.

As I said, the next two weeks are going to be focused on a soft reentry, beginning the process of acclimation, integration, and eventually assimilation. There is a part of me that can’t wait and another part that is reticent to return.  I’ve missed my community so badly, but I have not missed the rigors of ministry.  I have missed gathering with by brothers and sisters for worship and fellowship, but I have not missed preaching.  I have missed my friendships with my staff mates, but I have not missed meetings...filled with debriefing and decisions.  I hope that doesn’t sound harsh…it’s just what I feel currently. 

That’s why I know I’m going to go through a bit of shock and rightly so.  I’m going to experience a dramatic reintroduction to “responsibility” after a season of spontaneity.  I hope to bring some of what I've learned and who I’ve become into the raging river that is Impact.  I hope to get caught back up into it, but I also hope to bring something new into it.  I’m sure we’re both going to experience an awkward adjustment for a bit, but I don’t think it will be long before there is synchronicity again.  It’s just so crazy that I’ve experienced so much that they haven’t and that they’ve experienced so much that I haven’t.  Three months of walking two different paths that will converge into one in just two weeks.  I wonder how that will flesh out, but we shall find out.

This is know, I’m eager to be with people again.  I love people.  If the sabbatical has revealed anything it is that I have this thing for people that God has put in heart.  It burns in my bones.  I honestly wasn’t sure when I got away from people for a bit if it would show the very opposite, a simmering distaste for the “people industry” so to speak.  But it hasn’t.  It has only reaffirmed my original calling to bring the good news of the gospel to people and to love them with my life.  I miss the weddings and the funerals.  I miss sharing the joys and the sorrows.  I miss the blessy and the messy. (I know, blessy isn’t a word).  I look forward to being with the people that God has entrusted to my care.  It’s been refreshing to find out how much I miss and love people.

So, I will be writing in the coming weeks about Scriptures and ideas that will embattle me for the violent and silent reentry that is ensuing.  My prayer is that it will prepare me for the coming adventure that lies before me, before us all.


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