Jul 19th 2008

I know it’s probably not a word, but it is what I’m doing. It started with five days, with my wife, at a spiritual retreat in Wisconsin. (This was long before the Favre controversy so Wisconsin was still at rest — by the way, I hope he goes to the Vikings.) An organization called the Pastor’s Retreat Network, offers five day spiritual retreats at a variety of places around the country, and it’s all free! It was an incredibly way to start a sabbatical, great place on a lake, a time of prayer in the prayer chapel,reading, and hanging out with Lynn.

While I was there I read a book by Mark Buchanan, “The Rest of God.” It’s all about the concept of practicing a sabbath lifestyle. If you haven’t read the book, it’s a good read with lots of ponder material, especially if you are struggling with “hurry.” I’m still chewing on some of his sabbath thoughts and I can’t quote the whole book in this post, but let me share this one thought that was helpful.

How do we practice Sabbath? How do we do it? It’s more than time management… It’s not about carving out a day of rest in the midst of all our busyness. Sabbath is all about limitations. OURS. The sabbath is a way of saying, God it’s not just a matter of time, if I had all the time in the world, I still wouldn’t be able to finish…I need help. I’m limited. So it’s okay for me to stop.

I don’t know about you, but I think we need to develop a better theology of limits. Would you agree that one of the reasons why we can’t be still, one of the reasons why we suffer from the frenetic, anxiety-prone state of hurry-sickness is because we think we can do it all? We think we don’t need help.

We have limitations. You can either voluntarily take a sabbath or a sabbath will forcibly take you. You can take your day off fishing, napping, and reading a good book, or you can start your sabbath in a white van with red lights on the top, going towards the cardiac unit at top speed. I could tell you how a lack of regular sleep makes your brain fuzzy and your clothes tight. Working 17 hours a day will lead to a crash, maybe not this year or even this decade. I always laughed people off when they said I needed to be careful or I was going to burn out… I said that I love what I’m doing…and I can’t imagine getting burned out doing what you love… but then I hit my 40’s. And the all-nighters seemed to take a little more out of me. A couple of years ago…I started telling my accountability team…you know how I always used to say that I can’t imagine burning out doing what I love…well I can imagine it now. I’m not there, but I can imagine it.

I love serving as a pastor at Calvary, can’t imagine being anywhere else, or doing anything else… but did you know…

– 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or conflict in their churches.
– 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
– 80% of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked and wish their spouse would choose another proffession.

I believe that a significant reason for those statistics is the lack of sabbath keeping that comes from thinking we can do it all. Honestly one of the reasons that I’m taking a sabbatical, which is simply an extended sabbath, is because I haven’t always done a very good job of acknowledging my limitations. For me one of the purposes of the sabbath and my sabbatical is to acknowledge my limitations…not only to myself but to you… to remind all of us that the work of God is the work of God… it is not the work of Dan. It’s okay for me to be gone from the show for awhile because it’s not my show…it’s God’s show and God can work through all of you as much as He works through me.

Which brings us to another sabbatical insight. The Sabbath is an issue of trust — trust in God. God says trust me…you can take a day off and the world will be okay. You can leave the job unfinished and I will still provide for you. I can do just as much at and through Calvary with you gone as I can with you here. Keeping the sabbath is a weekly opportunity to tell God…I trust you. I trust you with my job. I trust you with my relationships, my hopes and dreams. Today I’m not going to do anything to get ahead…

Do you trust God enough to take a day off?