Throwback: A Sabbatical’s Rest

This article originally published in the January 2009 issue of groundswell.

“But during the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord.” –Leviticus 25:4

A sabbath rest to the Lord.  Rest is one thing, but resting to the Lord is something entirely different.  Resting can happen, but resting for the Lord means purposing to rest because He has asked it of me.  Not because I wore myself down, again, and struggle to keep moving.  A Sabbath to the Lord means planning ahead, preventing distractions, and enjoying the time as you re-energize to continue the work He has called.  Even more than that, a Sabbath to the Lord means submitting to His authority and obeying His command.

Purposeful rest is not waiting until the body breaks down or collapses altogether.  After all, functioning in the extremes does nobody any good.  Sometimes, purposeful rest relies heavy on the “purposeful.”  Just last weekend, as I puttered around my home in a zombie-like state, I had to force myself to commit to not doing anything from 2:30-4pm.  It seems odd, but I had to literally sit on my hands so that I would not pick up my laptop or incessantly change the television channels.  After I finally accepted that 90 minutes of rest would happen whether I liked it or not, my body quickly fell asleep where I sat.  Two hours later, I awoke from a drooling-style nap.

So tired was my body that I hadn’t shifted in the entire two hours.  This is not purposeful rest.  Though I purposed to rest for those 90 minutes, purposeful rest would have been sprinkled throughout my weeks rather than forced upon me because I could no longer think straight.

On a grander scale, the last year found me taking a sabbatical from ministry.  It was necessary.  I expended myself until empty, not resting along the way.  Taking a rest and refocusing was God’s idea.  He asked me to leave a leadership position in a ministry I helped to create.  He told me repeatedly “don’t worry about it” when month after month passed without an issue of …groundswell…  He also gave me respite from small groups.  For the first time in over six years, I was merely a parishioner in my church.

God worked elsewhere.  My desire to teach biblical truths needed what seemed like a rabbit trail in order to truly find fulfillment.  Resting in one area further built the foundation for the very ministries He asked me to set aside.

Stepping down from leadership allowed the opportunity to reflect on service, and how my personal motivations and attitudes infuse themselves in the fruit of service.  As water moves from roots through the plant and into the fruit, my exhaustion worked its way into the fruit of my service.

The desire to teach and the felt need for more formalized discipline in creating lesson plans tugged at my heart.  The room to breathe given by rest from other areas of ministry paved the way for opportunities to teach in online graduate programs.  In addition to now teaching in one of the most respected graduate programs in the nation, I am also living the dream of using my Ph.D. as a tool to use biblical foundations to support secular research.

My heart draws near to the idea that there truly is nothing new under the sun, and the desire to show graduate students how biblical principles are now supported by generations of secular research.  Faith is not something to be added to work and research, but should be used as a foundation for our very functioning in those realms.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” –Isaiah 55:9

So though I did not understand the path God led me down, He made the path straight.  Only One knew the path to ministry delight was a path that led first out of ministry and into secular teaching.  And now, after rest and refreshment, the opportunity has arisen to write Bible studies for my church.  The time away from ministry helped me to re-focus my energies and commit to moving forward in this area.  As I trusted God in His seeming odd leading, I now have the opportunity to share my heart and passion for His transformative ways with far more people than I could have otherwise.

Wherever He leads, follow Him!  And purpose to take care of yourself along the way.

photo by Lars Jensen

Throwbacks are all about bringing in previously-published articles.  These articles appeared back when groundswell was published in the form of an email newsletter.  The photos are newly added to the blog.

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