Aug 25, 2007

sabbatical?

So here's the deal... some of this you may already now.

Last month, just a day before our vacation, my stepdad died.

As a little context, my family hasn't had a vacation in several years due to a lot of junk we've gone through... most of which cannot be adequately summed up in a few words. In any event, we were looking forward to this time when that tragic news hit. We ended up going through the motions of vacation the first few days, but felt this tremendous backdrop of tension... which led to a visit to Chicago that kind of sapped our last bit of strength that week.

Flash forward to today...

Tomorrow (Sunday) I am set to engage in a "Sabbatical," a gracious gift of time I am allowed by my church each year to recenter with God personally and professionally. According to a disturbing survey about pastors who burn out, this kind of preventative maintenance is absolutely needed. Having been on board for almost 9 months now, I feel like the Lord and I can really have some clear conversations about what the "next hill" is for us as a church and me as its pastor... not to mention some good heart to heart I've been hoping He and I could engage in personally.

Honestly, my hope is that the time I'm about to give Him would be so that He could mess with my world in any way He sees fit... ultimately giving me a healthier mindset/soulset/heartset to take with me on the "next hill."

Then tonight... again, a day before this "set aside time," I received a phone call telling me that my mom was taken suddenly ill in a public place and had to be rushed to the emergency room of the local hospital.




Can I just confess something here?


I'm angry. I don't mean to say that I'm not worried for my mom because I am and am obviously concerned for her health and future.

But I'm angry... angry that I can't seem to quite get to that sweet spot of Sabbath that I've been yearning for (and honestly believe I need). Angry that any attempt I've been trying to make in this direction as of late has seemed almost attacked... roadblocked... halted.

It's always awkward to say this kind of stuff out loud, because it sounds selfish. And I wonder if sometimes we're afraid to confess our need to "breathe" because it seems like we don't care for the needs of those around us. Of course, that's not the case... but it can seem like that, so we often "keep it in."

Yet... Jesus spoke about a rather interesting principle...
"Love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27b)

So in other words, if we are to be able to practice love for another we need to actually practice self-care first. Granted, this all flows out of the statement Jesus made before this verse - to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

So...

  • If we don't practice good worship we can't practice good self-care...

  • And if we don't practice good self-care, we can't practice love for our neighbors...

  • And if we can't practice love for our neighbors, we can't practice love for our enemies/opposers...

  • And if we can't practice love for our enemies, we can't practice the very nature of the Gospel.
So I don't know how this week will turn out. I set some organic goals, meaning I will start to walk a certain way with God to try and listen to His voice but allow Him the right to redirect me and my plans.

Which instigates a rather interesting tension...

Perhaps all of this stuff with my mom is so that I won't grow dependent on "special blocks of time" to nurture my relationship with Him but rather find ways to do so on the daily battle field of the spiritual war we're all in.

Or maybe it is God's intent that I do make the most of this Sabbatical, but a certain "enemy" is trying to devour me.

I know this is a lot of personal info, but I share it with you for two reasons...


  • I won't be blogging this week... if blogging is a verb, that is, but you get the point.

  • If you pray, please pray for all that I've shared - from my mom to me and everything in between - marriage, kids, church, etc.

Thanks for your friendship and support in this, whether or not we've ever met face to face.

8 comments:

bigwhitehat said...

Sabbaticals happen. Voluntarily or involuntarily they happen.

Enjoy amigo.

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

I've been praying for your mom since the whole house issue and I voiced my opinion on that newspaper site.

Anyhow, I'll pray for you and your family. My maternal instincts are mad at God too thinking "But Lord, Tony needs this time - why are you messing with it?". But of course He knows best.

I pray pray pray your mom is ok and that you are able have some down town to prepare for the next hill

Brian said...

Tony,

Many pastors fall into the belief/assumption that the more they "work" the more faithful they are. You show great wisdom in acknowledging your need for sabbath, which I'm sure you're also aware is a need (command!?!?!) each week as well, not just these extended times.

(You've read Peterson's "Working the Angles" right? He hits this issue appropriately hard in that book, if I recall correctly. I think it was this book that got my butt in gear regarding appropriate rest.)

So this rest of yours, as you have pointed out, is ultimately a selfless act since a burned out pastor helps is not very helpful.

May you find rest and inspiration and may your mom recover quickly.

David Malouf -- said...

I'll be praying for you and your family as well.

If I may push-back but ONLY towards the goal of helping . . .

1) Burnout is a relational issue, not a work-load issue. At least that's what the social scientists say. Which makes sense to me (intuitively): there are people I'd sling poo with and enjoy the time because of the company - and I've worked dream projects and hated it due to the company I was with. Burnout, then, is usually an issue of poor, lacking, or toxic relationships. The opposite of burn-out is good friendships that fill you up, however that happens for you.

2) "Sabbath Rest" in the Old Testament (maybe the NT also, it's just not dealt with much) is an issue of Trust more than Rest. I was a bit stunned at the statements and responses on the jesuscreed blog -- lots of dancing around the expectation of a 40 hour work week. Justify THAT Biblically ;-) !! Personally, I think you hit it dead on when you used the word "dependence." Maybe that's something to explore?

Yet I know full well the "get beat up, have your dream stolen, then don't take a vacation for years" scenario! We met due to such similarity (a year or two ago - online). So I WILL pray for you during this time.
Empathetically,
David

Your friends in Stanton said...

Whoa!

It's amazing that in my reading today it said,

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."

As you know we are personally caring for my mom whose health is so broken. So...we also empathize with you as you try to figure out why your time alone with God is on hold. Or is it??... We are going to pray for your mom's situation and for time for you to have time to be alone with Him asking tough questions and getting some direction.

Go in peace. Go with God

Thurman8er said...

Was Jesus dependent on his "special blocks of time"? I think he was. He was certainly diligent in creating them.

Satan continues to use every means at his disposal to separate us from God and from each other.

I'll continue to pray, as always, for his defeat...and for your ministry.

Tony Myles said...

Wow... I can't believe you guys.

Thanks for your amazing and undeserved prayers/support.

Now... here we go..

Tam said...

I'm a little late on this...but from a wife of a worship pastor who has never had a sabbatical...i rejoice with you in this. I know things are crazy, from reading this post, but I know God is bigger than our craziness...and i trust you will come out of this break renewed and refreshed!

Anxious to read about it all later...