“You dare not give up the stability of your life that is ‘hid with Christ in God’ for anything – no matter how great and worthy the purpose – for it would be the death of you.” – a still, small voice inside of me
”For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:3
I’m smack dab in the middle of a 3-week “sabbatical,” or break, from my normal duties, my tenth since being with the Southwest church family in Amarillo, TX.
When I was leaving the West Houston church family after 14 years of loving a city through a student ministry to love another city through a church ministry, the team that had been discerning with me about this most unlikely move sent me “an offer.”
Included in it was an annual 3-week long “sabbatical.” This was on top of vacation.
I received it as an awesome gesture of the leadership’s heart, but had no intentions of ever planning on “taking it.” It seemed luxurious, extravagant, unfair, unproductive, inefficient, burdensome on others, and wrong. But I was surrounded by voices that spoke positively and encouraging about it, and by a leadership that without my permission planned it into my calendar.
There I was, in 2005, with three full weeks of not being able to hide my lack of connection to God with the excuse, “I don’t have time.”
I wish the dilemma on everyone.
Ten years and many such experiences later, these 3-weeks now seem necessary, death-defying, communally beneficial, ministry quality improving, equipping of others, and right.
What I wouldn’t have done if it was left up to me ten years ago, I wouldn’t do without if it is left up to me now.
It is interesting watching the reactions of those around me who hear of this annual blessing that must be simultaneously “given” and “received” to be had.
It triggers satisfaction in some, ranging from declarations like “That is beautiful,” to “That is so good.” On the extreme, it has triggered tears of gratitude and disbelief, tapping into some deep wounding that has come from the burnout that they or someone they love had experienced.
In others it triggers bitterness, ranging from comments like “Must be nice,” to silent head turns of envy. On the extreme, it has triggered anger towards me, with overt invitations to give it up so as to not make those who do not have such a blessing not feel slighted.
I used to receive the former folks eagerly as affirmation that I’m doing the right thing “taking it” each year. And I used to take the latter defensively, either making plans in my head to “not take it” to prove my sensitivity to others, or making lists in my head defending why I should or had the right to.
I say I “used to” do those things, but I still do both, just not with quite the intensity that I used to (perhaps this post is actually me doing it once again unwittingly. God knows, I must let it go).
But I am learning that any attempt to live the life of Christ always be in holy rebellion against, and in stark contrast to, thousands of societal rules, even among Christians, so that when something like an annual sabbatical, even when offered, will always get the occasional response of “how dare you take that.”
But at this point in my life, I dare not give it up. Without often withdrawing to solitary places to pray, to be still and know that God is God, to learn that His Kingdom runs and advances without me running and without me intentionally advancing it, and that He loves me, not because of my work, but simply because He is love, I would not last a minute. I must be conquered by God’s love, not by God’s work, in a world that values, rewards, respects, and justifies those who die busy.
I’ve already died that death. Busyness killed me once. That was quite enough.
Now my life is hidden with Christ in God.
If the peaceful, joyful, righteous, relational life He promises is merely an idea that I speak of in the midst of a frantic, stressful, fast-paced life of busyness, I’m offering the world nothing of value at best, a false gospel at worst.