Sabbatical Year: A call away from doing and a beckoning to start being

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It’s been a year. One whole year.  4 seasons. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. One year can feel daunting when you only know one next step. One terrifying, lonely step. When you can’t think that a year from now even exists because the thought of existing in a year feels like a crushing blow, a cruel suffering. One day can feel frightening when you can’t break out of depression. It’s been a year. A long sabbatical year since I stepped out of all “official” ministry, including my former job. It was the only step God gave me.

It’s been a wrestling year, a fighting year. A downright cold and awfully painful year. I’m tempted to call it one of the worst in my life. Most mornings I woke up and felt the bitter blows of what I hoped I could hold onto and what God kept asking me to give up. I have lost more than I ever could have thought. I realized I was much more capable of darkness than I would have ever admitted. I really thought I was good. Most of us do I think. Especially Christians. We think we are good. We try to be good. We act good, mostly. We know good things. We eat good food (especially Baptists). We try to do good. Therefore, we think we are good. Good with each other, good with our city, good with our family, good with our God.

This thing called faith comes in. It messes up the whole good lot of “good”s.

No one is good, not even ONE.

I thought I was good. Doing good. Being good. Acting good. Knowing a whole lot of good things and good “ways”. I held onto “good”. “Good” is safe. “Good” is above average. “Good” gets you friends and merit, but not enough to be flashy. “Good”=Godly. Good=God (there’s even just one vowel difference in the words!).

“We are here and there and everywhere. We are distracted. We are preoccupied. We can’t focus on the task in front of us. We don’t follow through. We don’t keep our commitments. We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away.” -Kevin Deyoung

“Good” got in the way of God. What do you do when “Good” is no longer good? When “Good” is actually not of God? When you question if “Good” is actually “bad”? That’s where I was a year ago. Somewhere in ministry I gave what I didn’t have. I felt internal and external pressure to “push through it”, to “keep going”. I ignored all the sirens that I was getting off track and listening to the wrong people. I wanted so badly to keep “Good” in my life, but I had no more room. No room for anymore “good” relationships, no money for “good” fellowship meals, no physical stamina for “good” community projects, no patience for “good” little community children. I was well over my capacity, physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. AND I had been. For a while.

“Every YES answer comes with a list of expectations. If I don’t know what those expectations are, I can’t possibly meet them.”– Lysa Terkeurst

Do you know what happens when you are over capacity? You hurt. No one wins, especially the ones you really want to give your best to.  I gave what I didn’t have. My physical health was wearing on me. I was undone emotionally. I no longer knew the difference between reading the Bible and communing with God. I rarely was greeted, “How are you?” but “Can you…?” or “We need…?” I was a yes girl. It’s a bad boundary habit of mine. I said yes and yes and yes. When I’d say no, I’d feel bad, apologize, and then commit. After all, does my “no” communicate that I am “too busy” or “not interested” or that I have “wrong priorities”? (Can you see how far off my thinking had come?)

“Consider the trade: if I say yes to this, I will have to release that. Will the trade be worth it?”-Lysa Terkeurst

If I was to say yes to the Lord, I had to release all of what was holding me back. The good stuff was holding me back. This “good” was what I had longingly prayed and desired for since college. This “good” was once, very good. It was a peaceful release but a painful surrender. I was confident that I had been where I was supposed to be, and I was confident that I had to step out and make a very significant change. I couldn’t see anything but the next step: a season to focus on my own soul care; a season for the ministry to my own soul. I thought I was alone. I had NEVER heard of anyone doing this. Didn’t this mean I was weak, unwise, or had misunderstood my “calling”?

“When we zoom out, we start to see a completely different picture. We see many people in the same struggle. Rather than thinking, “I’m the only one”, we start thinking, “I can’t believe it! You too? I’m normal? I thought it was just me!”– Brene Brown

As I’ve encountered many older and wiser brothers and sisters in ministry this year, each one has discussed a season in life where they had to step out and focus on their own soul, just like me! I’m normal. It’s healthy. It’s godly. It’s good!

You see, the trees MUST release their leaves in preparation for winter. If a storm comes before this, our dear fall trees will snap and crack and split under the pressure of the snow and ice and cold. Release is a gift. Releasing our leaves for the next season allows us to embrace winter. You can’t carry the weight of two seasons at the same time. Joy and hope will be ripped right out from under you. It’s just too heavy. Release doesn’t steal joy. It actually allows us, me, to embrace what’s next. So here I am, embracing what’s next, learning from my previous season, and looking forward to the day soon when I enter again into vocational ministry. But for now, I’ll keep focusing on this season I’m in and soaking in all it has to offer.

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