So what did I do on my sabbatical? Good question. The truth is that I determined not to focus on doing too much of anything during this season but rather more on simply being. The last thing I needed was another list of tasks or projects to accomplish.
Nevertheless, here are some things that I did do:
1. I focused a large portion of my time on personal recovery. I desperately needed some spiritual refuelling, some emotional replenishment, some physical energy renewal, and some personal refreshing. Over 27 continuous years of church ministry life take its toll. Ministry is highly rewarding but it can be stressful too. I was feeling a "tiredness that normal holidays weren't fixing" (to borrow a phrase from Eugene Peterson). To be honest, investing this much time in my own well-being wasn't easy to do. At times, especially in the beginning, I felt guilty for even having the time off, especially when everyone else was still working so hard. But I needed it and ultimately I believe that the best gift I can give God and our church is for me to be in as healthy a place as possible. After all, self-care is important.
2. I invested a lot of time in personal reflection. I took time to read all of my old journals, to read all of the prophetic words I have received over the years, and to think about the seasons and stages of my life so far. Often it is easier to discern God's finger prints in our life when we take time to look back – sometimes even more than in the present time.
3. I had extended devotional time most days – praying, reading my Bible and journaling. It’s nice to simply pray and read the Bible with a total focus on knowing God more … without any need to prepare a message or get anything productive out of the time.
4. I spent a lot of time with my family, including 10 days holidays over the Easter period. The free time on weekends and evenings was bliss. At our church, we have been doing Saturday night meetings for over 10 years now (actually, 2 Saturday church meetings for many of those years). I had under-estimated the cumulative effect of weekends being mostly full of ministry activity – with me often involved with 4-5 church meetings. Needless to say, this sabbatical was a huge blessing to my family.
5. I spent time with friends and some mentors. I even had a hit of golf a few times – something I haven't done for a long time.
6. I did some training: attending a Bill Hybels mentoring event in Sydney for church leaders and a Halftime Experience with Bob Buford (50+ is my ‘second half’ of life).
7. I even saw a counsellor. We talked about my emotional world, learning to live more fully in the present moment, and some of my task-driven tendencies.
8. Near the end, I spent some time refocusing. This was a kind of life and ministry review. It involved thinking about God's calling on my life, our church, my role, and the best contribution I can make to our future.
Well, hopefully that gives you a bit of an idea as to what I have been up to.
Click here for Part 3.