Pastor Ryan's Sabbatical: The Gift of Rest
"Our hearts are restless until they rest in you."-Augustine of Hippo
above: an oxen at rest in Grecia, Costa Rica
If a sabbatical is about one thing alone, it must be about rest. Rest is a dying commodity in our world and we are constantly trying to find it, earn it, keep it and hold onto a rhythm of it. My sabbatical gave me the gift of rest. Real rest. Real and deep and lasting rest.
I'll admit I was terrified that I wouldn't come back rested from my sabbatical. I knew that I was tired, like many of us are, from a global pandemic and all that it has done to our lives, our schools, our communities, our families. I have practiced weekly rest and weekly sabbath for over ten years. But I knew these weekly rests were quickly depleted in all the other days of the week and I wanted that deep reserve of rest for whatever the next season of life might bring.
And God gave me the gift of rest.
Realizing that this gift can only be given by God took some time. I thought it would be found by sleeping in, by slowing down, by not working and enjoying the things and people around me. And that was restful in many ways and a true joy of the sabbatical.
But the deep, abiding reservoir of rest I was looking for ultimately came from only one source; God himself.
One of the best parts of the sabbatical season for me was time in the morning with Jesus. While the kids slept in or watched their summer tv shows, I could unashamedly read scripture, journal and spend time with Jesus. Its funny to say as a pastor, but its not something I've ever been great at. I've always enjoyed doing things with Jesus more than just being with Jesus.
But very early on Jesus used a metaphor with me about my sabbatical of an oxen that had been plowing a field for a long time. And for the first 6 weeks of my sabbatical, in my quiet times with Him, all I did was rest. There wasn't a lot of deep thinking or striking revelations, new ideas for church or life, just His life giving water and green pastures and a permission to rest in the presence of God.
This might sound overly spiritual, but it really wasn't and really isn't. Just like sometimes the best moments with the people you love are just sitting and being quiet together, this was what it was like with Jesus. A sweet, simple, restful Presence. The gift of rest.
The first two weeks of my sabbatical were designed specifically to rest and decompress. The kids and Kealy were still in school. I had a week at home to rest and then a week camping to rest (more on that in the next post). But I honestly think if I hadn't taken those first two weeks to rest, decompress and just be in the presence of God, the rest of the sabbatical would not have been as awesome as it was.
I wrote this on June 4, three days into my first week of sabbatical:
"I am finding it easy to rest the last few days. Especially today on the Sabbath. Jesus, I want to keep company with you, not just do my own thing. I know rest comes from you, but help me to rest with you. To pray and to play. To connect this feeling of rest with your love and your mercy. Keep me content and close to you."
"My soul finds rest in God alone. Salvation comes from him."-King David the Psalmist (Psalm 62:1)
above: me taking hammock time on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica
above: Avery soaking up the sand and waves in Punta Uva, Costa Rica