Sabbatical: Going to the End of My Rope

“You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”—Jesus in Matthew 5:3, MessageDid Jesus envision this when he gave us a life-altering "beatitude?"  For me,  the answer is 'YES'!Most every person I know needs to dismantle their emotional programming for what it means to be happy in life. We are hard-wired to think that happiness and joy come by chasing the outer markers of success in life: a bigger house, a nicer car, a new toy. I explore this in Inside Job, my new book. We believe a lie and we make a vow that determines how we will live our life and try and try to be happy.Jesus turned this kind of thinking up on it’s head. To be happy—to be blessed—requires a total shift in our paradigm of how we view life. He offered us a paradigm shift in what is called the “Beatitudes.” These statements found in Matthew 5:3-14, are short, pithy and life-altering guidelines which help us not only dismantle our hard-wiring we’ve acquired through culture, church and family, but they help us really see how happiness is cultivated in our lives.In our Sabbatical, Gwen and I have come, face to face, with these statements--these beatitudes. Let me share one here: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” The Message jolts us to our core and says it this way, “You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”Blessing and happiness come by our emptying ourselves and having to rely on God in a complete and resolved kind of way. It’s when we are so vulnerable; so power-less; so weak and so empty that there is room for God to do his work. Our poverty is exchanged for his blessing. On our own, some of us try to out work and out wit God.We live as Parker Palmer has aptly coined it: functional atheism. We say believe in God and trust God, yet we live in a manic pace, stripping our souls and running our lives on empty. I had to come face-to-face with this humbling realization in our sabbatical--yet, again. We live as if our life, our work and our relationships are totally up to us. We, the, “functional atheist” of the 21st century, have soul work to do. We’d never admit it but we are more functional atheist than experiencing a faith with sustains, nurtures and shows us how to live with resilience . We live and function as if we are the ones having to push the proverbial boulder up another hill—yet again.Poverty in soul, for me meant that I had to accept let go of my grip on my work--and get out of its grip on me, my ministry and my staff. This acceptance--this consent is my daily work--my daily job. This letting go was a relinquishment of power and control. It required me confessing that I find my satisfaction in work--and not in God is not a good thing for me or anyone else around me. It is a shift towards poverty of soul for me. At times during sabbatical, I was anxious that Potter’s Inn might fail; fall apart or even die. We feel so fragile due to raising our support. Our helplessness actually fostered a deep sense of well-being---why? Because it meant letting go. Poverty of spirit meant a handing over to God all that I simply could not do and should not do.God works in us is to foster, nourish and grow a sense of contentment, inner-serenity and shalom that we live with the awareness that simply says this: No matter what my circumstances; no matter how hard this particular time is in my life; no matter how powerless I feel right now, 'All is well in my life and all will be well around me'. True contentment, my friends, is an Inside Job. In sabbatical, I left my work but I had to do my inside job.It is NOT up to me. I relinquish my efforts to be God—to be everywhere at once and to do multiple things that have stripped my soul bear and left me so empty inside. The great work of God is more than planting churches; more than sharing the Gospel; more than teaching. The great work awaiting each one of us the work of our inside job. God truly does desire our well-being. Sit with that thought for a moment and see where it might take you. What if you took a moment today and sat in your emptiness and weakness—feeling depleted and truly at the end of your rope and experienced the hands of God doing one thing: holding you. That’s it—just let yourself be held for a quiet moment. To sit, rather than DO something is an act of submission--and act of letting go--an act of well-being. Hey, I'm all for action, but even action must have it's seasons, right?In the beginning of our time “off” we felt like we truly were at the end of our rope. We were tired, worn out and experiencing some degree of burn out. So many years of pioneering and work had depleted us. A poverty within is what we had to face. As we faced our own spiritual poverty and admitted it and also confessed it—finally—we were brought low to a place of inner desperation and longing. “God, I don’t feel like I can go on. I can’t retire financially. But I’m at the end. Please God, do something. I let go now. It's time for you to do the thing that you must love to do--transform me and people like me."In that kind of confession, it seemed to have ushered us both into a journey of renewal.