I turned 51. That along with a pandemic, coming up on 4 years as a lead pastor and still trying to figure out who I am in the midst of all of this led me to schedule some deliberate time off. I know not everyone is able to just take a 4 day retreat from the world and life…but I am thankful I could. Actually, I don’t know that I’ve ever done something like this before, but like they say “drastic times call for drastic measures”. I don’t know that it was a mid-life crisis as I feel like I’ve had many, mini-mid-life crisis throughout. But I do feel like it was time for me to wrestle with God over some things in order for me to move ahead. What I knew I needed was for me to lose myself once again in Jesus.
I didn’t go far and I didn’t stay ritzy. All I needed was a room and Bible really (although I did bring along my computer, iPad, and couple of other books to read too). I stayed in a hotel room and didn’t come out except for about an hour or so each day after the first day. The entire first day I stayed in the room just praying and reading and reflecting. Being that I was fasting and praying, I was seeking to be very intentional about connecting with God and coming to some conclusions for myself about life.
Yes, I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but I needed to reconnect with the Lord in a deeper way. Society and culture had been infringing dramatically in my life and it seemed as though I wasn’t quite sure of anything at this point. Of course I know all the Bible verses for comfort and direction…I’m a pastor, lol. What I felt I needed was a break from everything and everyone…except the Lord.
What happened? A few weeks ago, I turned off all my social media…maybe I’ll write about that another time. Suffice it to say that I was tired of getting tons of stuff posted on my sites about this or that and being bombarded with lots of negativity. I just turned it all off. It’s still off now. I’m praying about a re-entry onto social media but for now, I’m still off.
I also kept my phone off for those 4 days, only responding to a few emails through my computer. This was a little easier than I thought it might be but I had already been off social media for a week prior to taking this sabbatical so it wasn’t like I was going to be getting tons of notifications anyway. I didn’t watch any TV and limited my YouTube viewing to a few sermons and informational videos from some pastors that were recorded back in 2011 haha.
In my time of prayer and reading, I discovered a few things about myself…some of which I already knew but needed to resolve with the Lord once again. And let me say that just because we deal with something with the Lord doesn’t mean it won’t come up again. Here are a few things I took away from my time.
I think more highly of myself than I should.
I think we all have elements of pride in our lives and I am not unlike anyone else. My pride may not be as blatantly obvious as some others but I have to deal with my ego at times too. It’s easy to get swept away in social media frenzies of trying to build your platforms and “brand” etc. What I had to do was let it all go. Hence just shutting down my social media feeds for a while and maybe for good? I think my motives are mixed at times…I want to be “liked” but I also want to influence others for Christ. I’ll never have it completely under control but taking a break from it all hasn’t been bad. What matters most isn’t what others think but what the Lord knows. And I’ve been needing to rest in that reality for a little while. I needed to let Jesus inform, reform, and transform me. I’ve had to fight the feeling to conform to “norms” of this world, which has made me feel insecure to some degree about how and what others think about me in handling all the things in culture right now. It’s been good to just rest in being defined by His love.
Some things needed to die.
Along with pride needing to die, I needed to nail a few other things to the cross too. This is where I felt the Lord sharing some things with me through some sermons and readings about “loss”. At this point in my life, I was having to let some things “die”. You know, like potential dreams about the future. Other things like dealing with how little “signing” I’m doing these days and wrestling with if that part of life is “over”. Other things like not feeling “hip” any longer but feeling my hips in a whole new way! Moreover not knowing as much about youth culture as I once did and feeling completely disconnected was wreaking havoc on my soul as well, being that I’ve done youth ministry for decades. Isn’t it weird to think that following Jesus means we have to leave everything at the cross, even those things that could be good? Yet, I had to come to the realization again that it’s not about what I can do for Jesus but what He wants to do in me and then through me. My greatest achievement in life will not be measured by anything other than complete obedience to Jesus.
The glory of God is all that matters.
When it all comes down, nothing matters more than God’s glory. This is the summation of my time on sabbatical. I learned a lot of others things too but to keep this blog post short, I’ll finish with this thought: God is out for His glory! No matter what happens in this life, God is doing what He does for His glory. Life isn’t about me or what my dreams may or may not be. My time on the 4 day sabbatical reminded me of John 11 and the resurrection of Lazarus. He was in the tomb for 4 days…and he stinketh! I didn’t because I took showers. Nonetheless, some of my life was stinking to God and it needed to dealt with. Lazarus had been dead and needed a resurrection. In some ways I had been dead and needed one too. Why does Jesus wait four days? To demonstrate His power and glory. My sabbatical didn’t lay everything to rest but it has helped me to get some new and better perspective: whose glory and whose story is my life going to be about?
I’m once again choosing God’s story and glory. How about you?
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-14