I’m currently a little more than halfway through my 10-week Sabbatical/vacation (8 weeks of sabbatical + 2 weeks of vacation). This sabbatical is the first time I have experienced one. Before embarking on this journey in June, the idea of extended time away for renewal and study apart from typical responsibilities was only theoretical.
Now that I’m experiencing a sabbatical, my support for churches to allow extended leave for their pastors has only intensified. And my appreciation to my church for granting this to me has exponentially increased.
It’s been a bit since I have added a post to this blog, primarily because I am on sabbatical. However, I wanted to write a few short articles to describe what I’m doing and share some lessons I am learning along the way.
I began the sabbatical by driving 6,250 miles. That may not sound like a bright idea for rest, but my family, along with my parents, piled into our Chrysler Town and Country and headed out to California to be present for my twin nieces’ high school graduation. We stopped at six national parks while driving there and back and stayed in more Airbnb’s than I can remember.
It was a wonderful trip to unplug from electronics (for the most part) and take in the beauty of God’s creation while forging generational family memories. The majesty of the Rocky Mountains and the variety of colors at Zion national Park breathed life into my soul. It was a gift to experience that with my family.
I was home for a little over a week before heading out again. I continued some of my studies that I began during the three-week pilgrimage across the United States and started working on a few writing projects. Then I hopped on an airplane and flew out to California by myself to spend time with my brother and his family and do some focused writing and research. My niece is heading to the Navy (we drop her off tonight), and I wanted to be with them during this exciting but emotionally challenging time.
So, what is the main lesson I’ve been contemplating so far? The sufficiency of prayer.
Like most pastors I know, I think about the people in my church. A lot. Even while on sabbatical. I may be reading a passage of scripture, and someone comes to mind, so I pray for them. That’s not unusual – I do that when I’m not on sabbatical. What is different is an agreement with the church to step aside from my pastoral responsibilities for a short time. I am encouraged to let the other leaders care for the church without my contribution (or, some might say, “interference”!).
So, right now, when I think of someone, I pray for them. And that’s it.
It’s been a wonderful reminder that the only thing I can do for the precious people I love in my church is to pray for them. Usually, I would pray for them but then be thinking of all the ways I should minister to them: a phone call, a note, a sermon application, a meeting, a gift – you get the idea.
Don’t get me wrong, I love doing those things and miss it right now. However, it’s been a wonderful reminder that God doesn’t need those things for me to influence my brothers and sister. Simply praying for others sometimes is the only thing that God wants us to do.
That thought needs to be qualified and nuanced, but you get the idea, right? I’m enjoying a kind reminder from my Savior that right now, during this short season called sabbatical, my prayers are enough because it is God that will make a difference in their lives.
Perhaps pastors are more susceptive to the danger of thinking that we must do more than prayer to help people (or maybe I’m just overly prone to this mistake). But I hope this is a helpful reminder to all that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
So, pick someone from your contact list and pray for them, knowing that, most likely, it is the only thing God wants you to do for them today. And if I’m that person you pray for today, I would be honored and humbled by your kindness to me.