Church

Coming Back from our Summer Sabbatical

It’s been quiet here for a while, and that has been on purpose.

This summer has been unreal and different than any I’ve had yet.

Jason and I have been blessed by our church leadership with a four-week Sabbatical during the month of July. This followed on the heels of the most busy and intense month, work-wise, I have had since Caleb was born. I spent June helping with what is essentially a day camp for Assemblies of God missionary kids. Because I was working, my kids got to participate. While I snuggled babies, my boys visited the zoo, the park, the pool, the Discovery Center, and learned so, so much about what it means to be a missionary family, even though we aren’t one. It was crazy busy, but so much fun, and such a wonderful growing experience for my kids.

My last day with the MK program was a Saturday. We had church Sunday, and spent the final couple days of June getting our ducks in a row for a month-long absence from church. And then, all of a sudden, we were off. For a whole month. What would we do with ourselves? We weren’t entirely sure.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture right now is Hebrews 4, where God speaks (through whoever wrote this small, wonderful book) about Sabbath-rest. I wrote about this passage a while back, when we were in Hebrews in our church-wide Bible reading plan, and the words of Hebrews have stuck with me all this long time. I find myself mulling over them still. The chapter begins, “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” 

Bible scholars are not entirely sure about what rest this is talking about – whether that is the eternal rest of heaven or rest from striving to earn our own salvation through works here on earth. There’s a chance (and this is what I believe) that it’s referring to both. Of course it’s easier to see how we have to trust in God to get into heaven, something we can neither see nor touch, nor really even fully comprehend.  It’s much harder, I’m finding, to live out what it means to rest in God in the here and now. I know in my head that only Jesus saves, but so often I live like for someone to come to know Christ in one of our services it takes the Holy Spirit and me getting all the power point slides up at the right moment.

Taking four weeks away from our church has forced us to come to grips with the fact that what God does in our church is up to Him and not to us, and relies on His efforts, not ours. We still believe He wants to do saving and sanctifying work in Ozark. And we still believe that by His grace, He wants us to play a small part in that. But I think from here on out, we will do more resting and waiting for Him to move instead of forging ahead on our own; letting in more silence and stillness as we allow Him time to do what He will, instead of filling silence with noise and the stillness with activity because it makes us feel awkward to slow and rest.

However awkward it is at times, we need stillness and rest. God reminds us of this all the time with commandments about the Sabbath. And if that weren’t enough, He bound our spirits up in physical bodies that have limitations, including, and very importantly, our need to stop and rest every single day. Sleep is so important that we cannot survive more than a week or two without it. Sleep deprivation is even used as a torture technique in some places.

So we rest.

We wait on God, we do what He tells us, and then we rest.

An entire month of resting has been weird and wonderful for our family. What this looked like for us, practically speaking, was:

  • Going places and doing fun things as a family, like blueberry picking, trips to the theatre, visiting the zoo, and going hiking. We really wanted to treasure these last days before Caleb becomes a big, school boy.
  • Reading a bunch (I’ll post soon about the great books I’ve enjoyed this summer).
  • Surprisingly, cleaning the kitchen really well every single day. It’s a chore I usually avoid, and leaning into it, and seeing the finished results was so much more restful and encouraging than I ever would have imagined.
  • Journaling more than I have since I was a teenager–I think I filled half a journal this month alone.
  • Having friends over to eat and play games. We do this a lot anyway, but realizing we want to do it even on “vacation” makes me want to incorporate it into our schedule more, even if it takes a little extra planning to do so.
  • And talking, talking, talking, talking, talking. We talked with friends. We talked with each other. We talked with people who give us wise counsel. And of course, we spent a lot of time talking with God. Talking through questions, hurts, fears, problems, hopes and dreams has been difficult at times, but cathartic for us, and I’m glad we’ve had time and space to do it.

What it didn’t look like was checking our email. Jason stayed off Facebook for the most part, too, and I probably should have followed his lead on that. Whatever else Facebook is, it isn’t very restful, and it doesn’t help me place my hope in God and wait on Him. I’m going to try to figure out what it looks like for me moving forward, and how to use it wisely. But I don’t have any answers yet.

It’s been a good month, but it’s only been a month. I’m a work in progress. And thanks be to God, even though it’s slow going, He hasn’t given up on me, and He has promised not to ever do so. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you get some time, in these last few weeks of summer, to pause for a moment or a few hours or a few days and rest in the Lord. He holds the whole earth together. He can hold us together, even when we lay down our work for a little while.

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:9-16

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