There are at least five benefits of taking time off and being away. I'm talking about the wonderful deposits we place into our souls when we take a vacation. I’m returning from four weeks off of work. Four weeks might seem like an extravagance that you cannot afford. I understand that. But for me—for us—we simply had to take this time off and had to be away. Here’s why…Read More
During the next 30 days or so, both Gwen and I want to process our Sabbatical journey with you here in this blog. It is really a way of organizing our thoughts around what has happened in us and to us in the past season of this season of being off. Bear with us as we both try to find words to express a shifting in the tectonic plates of our souls. It really does feel as if some major shifting has happened. We've regained a new perspective. We both feel renewed. We have rested, studied, read books and received wise counsel. All of this has helped us re-kindle the flame within---yes, re-kindle. That's the word. Re-kindled with God; with our own souls and with each other. It's been a rich and rewarding time despite walking through the shadow of death to release our grandson into the arms of heaven and taking another son down the aisle to be married. We've had highs and lows and most of all, we've had the time to process our journey by both looking back and looking within. We've looked up; press forward and renewed our love of life, God and each other.A sabbatical literally means “a time of ceasing.” It is like a vacation in that you literally are “vacating” your work but it is extended. A sabbatical is a season to do three things: rest, renew and re-tool. We did all three of these necessary movements and the benefits feel rich and rewarding. We said tonight over dinner that we would not change a thing in our sabbatical. We'll tell you more over the next month.I read, just this week, that only 42% of Americans take all of their allotted time off from work. For us, we were in that people group who seemed to never take the time we were given. This false arrogance all caught up with us. It always does. I felt like I was needed. I felt like I couldn't do what I was asking, coaching and telling other leaders to do. It massaged an inner sickness within me that caused demons, I long thought were asleep to wake up inside me. These demons were inner-addictions I thought I had long faced and walked away from. It was not the case.This costs us dearly. We had grown thin in our ability to care. We greatly underestimated the wear and tear to our own souls as we attempted to care for leaders in both the ministry and marketplace. It was as if my soul had a slow leak in it. Drip by drip, I felt my life flowing from me. By the fall of this past year, we knew we were in trouble. We needed to do what we needed to do. It was that simple. Since, we're not ready to retire, we both intuitively knew that if we were to finish the journey ahead...a necessary respite simply had to happen. And I would have to muster up the courage to take and extended time off. I would take a sabbatical. We'll both write more about the struggle and resolve to finally dig in and say we were going to do a sabbatical. Our choice to do so is one of the best decisions we have made in our journey thus far.The roots of a sabbatical are found in the Bible (Genesis 2:2-3; Lev. 25, Deut 5:12-15). Since the beginning of time, the Creator of this world knew that everyone and everything ought to cease from time to time because something happens in a season of ceasing that cannot and will not happen at any other time. Unless we learn to cease, we are setting ourselves up for dead-ends; burn out and flame outs. Even farmers allow a field to lie fallow for a season. They do this so that the field might be nurtured back to life by being dormant. But this kind of thinking is almost extinct in the modern world. With this extinction we are now seeing the price we are all paying by always being on; always being available and always being wired 24/7. There is a high price to pay and many of us our mindlessly living our lives without taking into account the bankrupt nature of our souls. We live our lives on empty and have the audacity to call this life--the abundant life. The busy life is not the abundant life. Busy can be for a season, but not for more than a season.I see this error in living and thinking every day of my working life. And let me just tell you this one insight: When you burn out, it takes a long, long time to come back to life. You don’t burn out in one day. It’s a slow, steady leak in your soul that drains you. You run your life on empty and give left-overs to everyone and everything—including your self. I believe the thinness in so many leader's lives today is leading to a thinness and shallowness in our churches, in our books and in our songs. It's become dreadful to see how we are living and sharing our shallow lives on social media and more.Now, after having coached scores and scores of leaders in the marketplace and ministry to take a sabbatical, I finally took my own. It took me 40 years to muster the courage; face myself in the mirror and confess: “Steve, you are bone tired and you’re not going to make it to the end of your vocational journey unless you stop, cease and renew yourself.” Each word in that sentence is important and one you might think to underline and sit with.Is this the case for you?I took a entire 2 years to plan our sabbatical. I read everything there was in print and sadly found most of it shallow, hallow and worthless. A few lone voices in the wilderness became like prophets to me and Gwen calling us “This way—take this path and you’ll recover your life.” We listened to their voice. Heeded their advice and planned a four month season—equal to ¼ of a calendar year to be “off.”Questions to Consider:What would being “off” really look like? Where would you go? Who would you want to go with? What would you do? What would you do?