Jesus said, “‘Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light’” –Matthew 11:28-30.
It’s August, so my 6 week sabbatical is over. In my 49 years, I’ve never taken an extended break from church life. What a breath of fresh air!
Jud and I met with a philosophy professor who loves Jesus and is the faculty sponsor of the Atheist Club on campus.
We went to a class that we wouldn’t have thought to attend … and didn’t like it. So freeing to admit something wasn’t a good fit for me! Freedom to try it … freedom to attend … freedom to not continue.
I slept in on Sunday mornings without any feeling of guilt, shame or remorse.
I finally had undistracted time to process some of what has gone on in my heart the last several years.
What did I learn that I couldn’t learn with the distractions of daily church routines?
- Why did it take me so long to take an extended break? I discovered how refreshing life away from our normal work schedules can feel to the soul. And I learned that church had become my ‘job.’ My leadership responsibilities (all volunteer and unpaid) amount to a part-time job. All the people that come to me on a weekly basis to pour out their hearts because they know I won’t condemn them for any thoughts or actions weighed on my own spirit and started to bottle-neck emotions in my heart. I knew I internalize others’ pain, I didn’t realize just how much it affects me physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.
- It amazed and rattled me how little I missed all the meetings. I realized how much I need relationship connections. Meetings and services had become my ‘relationships.’ I realized how little people actually know me. I’ve invested so much into others; but I haven’t allowed others to invest in me.
- The loneliness that overwhelms me in services lessened in isolation. I’m still processing this one and may for some time to come. Often I am aware of loneliness in groups more than by myself. But, during this 6 weeks, I realized how easily I could alleviate those feelings of irrelevancy by living away from church-the-building. Which brings me to …
- …I have attended church all of my life and have melded it with the Bride of Christ. Over the last 6 weeks, I recognized how much the organism of following Jesus had blurred into the organization of church. The two have become inseparable in my thinking. Jesus told us to make disciples and that is done in church-the-building. How did I ever come up with that one?! Church-the-building has subtly (and in some cases, overtly) promoted that by giving toward and supporting the business-end of church (building funds, administrative costs, salaries, upkeep, bigger-and-better sound and lighting systems, etc.), we fulfill The Great Commission–to go and make disciples. Instead of meeting people in their own lives like Jesus did, we expect them to come into our house, our territory, to learn about Him. We’ve made ourselves way too comfortable! I’m not opposed to the business-end of church–just opposed to the organization overtaking the organism and focus on relationships and people’s lives. I believe that much of this thinking contributes to doctrine trumping how we treat people.
- I need more time. More time to process. More time away from the organization. More time to find those people who speak and live the life of Christ and less time defining another’s sin while justifying our own. More time remembering why I follow Jesus and love those who follow His ways.
I intend on learning to make rest a priority in my daily life–not waiting another 49 years for a break! I haven’t figured out how that looks in our culture that rewards stressful living, but I now know how my heart needs time to reflect on and enjoy this journey with God.
My only regret: I didn’t read enough books. My Stephen Booth crime novels are still piling up along with many others next to my bed. Perhaps I need another sabbatical. This time on a beach away from technology….
I’d love to hear from you!! What do you need to rest from? Have you felt God tugging at your heart, but don’t think you have time in your schedule to sacrifice? What can you do this week to unplug?