What is a sabbatical?

A dictionary definition of a sabbatical is “a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.” The idea of a sabbatical is derived from the Sabbath Day, one day in every seven for rest and renewal. There are some workplaces (not many) that build this into their labor contracts.

Maranatha Church has a policy of up to four months every seven years, with the expectation that I come back and stay for at least 2 years. For Valerie and I, the decision to take this opportunity was a part of a bigger decision to stay at Maranatha if possible for many more years. This sabbatical is our opportunity to rest, refresh and renew for the ministry path ahead of us.

We’ve been training for a 23 day hike along the Pieterpad in the Netherlands, a spiritual and physical pilgrimage of sorts. Recently on a hike from Glen Morris to Paris (10k one way), I took this picture of the path ahead and a bench along the path. That bench is a symbol of what this sabbatical is for me. I see the path unfolding ahead of me into an unknown future. I can’t see where the road ends, but I am determined to walk it. But for the moment I need to turn aside, look away from the path, and recharge my batteries.

I understand that this is a huge privilege and blessing to me, and that many people could use a sabbatical but do not get it – at least not like this (I know other pastors that do not get it either). As much as possible we should look for the benches we do have (vacation time, holiday weekends, days off, etc.) and make the most of them. I fear that sometimes we fill our rest time with so much activities, we need a time to rest from our vacation. We are not under the Sabbath Law, but we are designed to enjoy sabbath rest. Build into your rhythm some kind of resting, refreshing and renewing… time to be still and know that you are not God.

Thank you to Maranatha for this sabbatical blessing. I am committed to using this time to renew myself in the Lord, so that I can come back ready and recharged to fulfill his calling on my life here in this community.

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