Posted by Kyle Page on August 04, 2016 with 4 Comments
What God taught me through a Sabbatical
This week I am officially back from a month long Sabbatical. It was a great experience that I will always cherish. Of course, I’m still processing everything and will be for a while but I want to share a few of the things I learned from being away in July.
1. My family is the most important ministry I have – Hanging in my office at church is a list of non-negotiable ministry commitments I use as a daily personal reminder. One of the commitments says, “I will not minister to my church at the expense of my family.” If I’m honest sometimes I break this commitment. At home my body may be present but oftentimes my mind is somewhere else thinking of what I need to do next, occupied with fear, or trying to figure out a solution to a problem. Anxiety robs me of the precious emotional space my family deserves. Often I seek to numb it through reading endless articles or mindlessly scrolling through social media or You Tube videos.
I may not have complete victory in the war over worry but God used my Sabbatical in July to give me a decisive victory. Sabbatical allowed me to completely unplug from everything and focus my full attention on my incredible wife and two wonderful daughters. Next week Jessica and I will celebrate ten years of marriage. Sabbatical gave us a great opportunity to celebrate. In our five years of ministry at Pleasant View (spanning half of our marriage) a lot has changed for us and we have changed a lot as people. During the Sabbatical we took time to learn about each other all over again by being fully present with each other.
2. “I repent of my usefulness” – Last year I read about a quote cherished by John Newton, the hymn writer of “Amazing Grace.” The quote, often attributed to Newton, was actually from a sermon by New England Puritan preacher Cotton Mather. Mather once said, “My usefulness is the last idol I was willing to part with, but the Lord has enabled me to give even this up. I am now willing to be laid aside, overlooked, neglected, and forgotten – only let His wise and holy will be done.” Before I went on Sabbatical I saw this quote on Twitter and made it a prayer for myself in July.
Through Sabbatical God taught me I am expendable. Sometimes preachers (like me) think we are far more important than we actually are. God has graciously called every one of us and wants to use us but by no means does He need us. God can use anyone or anything to accomplish His purposes. Pleasant View seems to have done fine without me in July. It was a humbling thing to listen on the internet to the sermons that were preached while I was gone and realize they were just as good, if not better, than sermons I could preach. I am grateful God has brought numerous gifted people to be a part of Pleasant View to serve and lead. Ultimately, people need Jesus as their Shepherd. It’s a freeing thing to know I am in no way indispensable but I am dearly loved, wanted, and called.
3. Grace – As soon as I started my Sabbatical thoughts started to run through my mind that I didn’t deserve a Sabbatical. I felt guilty for taking a month long break because there are plenty of hard working people that deserve a break much more than me – single parents trying to make ends meet, factory workers grinding it out on the third shift, professionals working long hours in devotion to their occupation.
Instead of daily driving more guilt into my conscience God started to remind me about His grace during my Sabbatical. A Sabbatical is really nothing more than one Sabbath day right after another. When God commanded the Israelites to take Sabbath rest He reminded them of their redemption, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Deuteronomy 5:15 NIV).” The discipline of taking one day out of the week to rest is a reminder of our salvation. Our salvation is given to us by grace, not through any works of ours. Every day during my Sabbatical I was reminded of God’s grace, that I didn’t deserve this.
4. Learning about regular Sabbath rest – I am not a strict Sabbatarian. I don’t believe the Old Testament, Jewish Sabbath is equivalent to the New Testament Lord’s Day, Sunday. A few weeks ago I was the recipient of some odd looks when a car load of people coming home from a Sunday evening church service saw me mowing grass around 8 o’clock. I believe Jesus died to give us the ultimate Sabbath rest of eternal life with God. Under the New Covenant one day is just as important as another (Galatians 4:10-11). Every day is an opportunity to draw closer into the presence of God through Christ.
There may be advantages to keeping a weekly Sabbath day on Sundays, it is the day most Christians worship with their church family and are off from work, but it certainly isn’t a requirement. However, this does not cancel out the need for a regular Sabbath rest. God created everything then rested. This means He established a pattern of rest and work in creation itself. The Sabbath was created for the benefit of man to be restored, refreshed, and re-connected with God. I spend Sundays working as a pastor so during most weeks my day of rest is Monday.
My month long Sabbatical helped me to learn more about what a Sabbath day should be like. Sabbath days should be full of rest, worship and enjoyment. Sabbath Days should help replenish our souls. During my Sabbatical I read the Bible, prayed, worshipped, and read spiritual classics but I also ate great foods, slept, swam, played with my kids, traveled, enjoyed history, made home improvements, spent time outside in nature, ran a 10k, sat on the front porch while it rained, watched movies, went to a musical with my family, and read a Star Wars book just for fun.
5. Solitude, quiet, and seeking God - One of the more unique experiences of my Sabbatical was a personal retreat I took at Cleft Rock in Rockcastle County. The retreat center is really just a series of cabins built for Christians desiring rest and renewal. It is near Daniel Boone National Forest in the woods. What I found out very quickly is I am not used to that kind of solitude or quiet. Our world is one of constant noise. It was a big challenge for me to be alone, to be still, and not hear any noise other than crickets chirping or an air conditioner running. To be honest with you it was scary to be alone. I had a really hard time going asleep. In the end what I learned is how much my soul craves and needs quiet and solitude. Some of the great encounters people have had with God such as Moses and Elijah were in complete solitude and silence.
6. Trusting in the Sovereignty of God – We take God’s providence for granted. Every new morning of life is evidence of God’s power and control. He provides for and directs us in ways we can’t even possibly imagine. Rest forces you to rely on God’s sovereignty. There is nothing you can do about anything when you are resting. When someone rests they are voluntarily placing everything in the hands of God. When we are out working, moving, and staying busy sometimes we maintain a fiction that we are in control but in rest you are forcibly confronted with the reality that our control is completely an illusion. God alone is in control.
7 Thankful for my church – I am so grateful for my church, Pleasant View Baptist, for giving me an opportunity to have a Sabbatical. I missed you while I was gone. Not every church is so gracious to their pastor to give him a Sabbatical. I am so thankful for you.
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Karen August 4, 2016 3:08pm
So thankful for your time that you had in July, what a great blessing for you and your family. The grace that God showed you, you will definitely bring to us. i thank God for bringing you and your family to us. Thru Him teaching you He is growing us. Thank you Bro Kyle
Martha Page August 4, 2016 3:15pm
So thankful that Pleasant View Baptist granted you this sabbatical also and that you, Jessica and Carlee were able to share some of that precious time with us too....especially having the girls for a week! :)
Martha Page August 4, 2016 3:17pm
Oops, left little Emoree's name out of the above message! :)
Brenda Mullins October 13, 2016 11:22am
Bro. Kyle - I am so glad PVBC appreciates the special and unique pastor they have. It was so wonderful watching you grow in the Lord - and I know every sermon you preached seem to hit me! God is using you in a mighty way - and I am so thankful you had time to "rest and know that I am God".