In the beginning of all things, God set a day in the calendar for REST for humankind and for entering the sacred moments of time (Sabbath). On the seventh day, he rested.
In year seven of serving at Christian Fellowship, the Lord called me to a Sabbath rest. What worked before wasn’t working anymore and I could sense that the Spirit of God was undoing and redeeming something very broken in me. It all was birthed from a place of receiving REST. Receiving what God created for us from the beginning.
Coming to the end of myself
In 2020 the cfKidz discipleship team met for our community dinner, gathered around in a circle to join hands in prayer before going into pandemic hiding. I remember feeling a sense of loss and sadness at things ending abruptly because the world was shutting down. You may have been in that circle when we thanked God for our time together and put the future in His hands. It was a forced surrender due to circumstances beyond our control.
As a shepherd, what I felt was excruciating. We had worked so diligently for years to form the community and culture of our ministry. Now, it was changing, and it felt like losing a limb or one of the five senses. My soul was in grief. A few of us continued to minister as we prepared to move to the new building. But, after a sense of a new normal began to come into our experience, feelings of grief, guilt and shame began to overwhelm me.
My strengths are seeing, feeling, and intercession to the point of action in ministry, but I found myself stuck in the seeing only. The feeling was too much to bear. My intercession became focused only on others.
There was a yearning in me that I didn’t have words for. I knew the thoughts in my head were not true of my whole soul. I hid my feelings until I could deal with them in community with those who could hold my pain with me. (Leaders are expert hiders.)
God’s call to rest
I had a picture that the Lord gave me during a day of sabbath rest and personal retreat in the fall of 2021. First, it came in the form of a book given to me by a church member entitled Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts. Then, there were a series of circumstances that knocked the wind out of my sails. In the process of bringing that into the presence of Christ and mentors, I heard God’s clear invitation: “Become fully submerged into the Spirit and go to the ‘lonely place’ in the wilderness.”
“Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it, declares the LORD, and I will be its glory within.”
I recall a pivotal conversation with pastors Michael and Beth, wondering what all this meant and feeling stunned at their response: “When you are ready to discern this together, we would love to do that with you.” Somewhere in the course of the deep work of seminary, leadership cohort training, pastoral track invitation and coming to the end of my own strength, I got to the right question:
“Can I request a sabbatical?”
I was really asking: “Am I worth the time and sacrifice to step away from the work to tend my soul?” It took months to work through my thoughts and emotions. I read scripture and sought advice about what God was inviting me into. At the core, it really meant that there was some work God wanted to do in me, but I was going to need to hold still for Him to do it.
For now, all I can say quickly in the rush of in person greetings is, “Sabbath was the sweetest gift anyone has ever given to me personally. For that I am thankful beyond words.”
If there is one word that incapsulates my Sabbatical experience, it is PRESENCE.
This is what we have been called to: living in the presence of the breathing, living God so that His glory will fill all our moments into eternity. His longing is to dwell within us. What a privilege it is to enter the yearning for connection with Him during the short life we have here, embodied on earth.
My sabbatical ended on December 31, 2022 and I’m so honored to be back in my role at CF in response to God’s call. What a joy, what a privilege, what a Savior we have in Jesus!