I just wrote my final report on my sabbatical for my church. It’s probably the last time I’ll be writing about sabbaticals in quite a while. Here’s what I said.
Mark Buchanan, a Canadian pastor and author, took a sabbatical. Reflecting on his experience, he wrote:
As I left for sabbatical, many people in my church wished me well. They told me they’d miss me, that they’d be praying for me, that they hoped I came back refreshed. And then they usually said, “You deserve this.”
No, I don’t deserve it. It’s pure gift, like being born in peacetime and not war, like being forgiven, or kissed, or told you have beautiful eyes. I never earned a minute of it. I don’t deserve a scrap of it.
I can relate. The sabbatical we enjoyed was a gift, and are deeply grateful. Thank you for investing in us and allowing us to take time to be refreshed.
We were told by a wise man to reflect on 1 Kings 19 when we began our sabbatical in June. Elijah was weary. He rested; God provided everything else that he needed. Our job, we were told, was to rest, which is actually a different kind of hard work. Our other job was to trust that God would provide everything that we needed.
He did. One of the clearest examples of His provision was when we arrived at a pastors’ retreat centre in Wisconsin. We knew that four other couples would be present, but we expected them to be strangers. God had a surprise in store for us. We spent the week with a pastor friend of mine and his wife. God had planned things much better than we could have. He provides for us very well.
So we were refreshed. Charlene and I spent lots of time talking together, which helped to deepen our relationship. We worshiped together as a family at a church and found ourselves hungry every week to join God’s people and to hear from his Word. I spent lots of time in the backyard reading and reflecting. I met with key friends and mentors and benefited from their wisdom and guidance. We were strengthened more than we can say from our sabbatical, and we are grateful to God and to you.
Please pray for us! Pray that God would continue to teach us, and that the lessons and rest we received while away will pay dividends to God’s glory.
Buchanan wrote that there is no way he could pay back his congregation for the gift of his sabbatical. You don’t repay gifts. But he did come back restored. You have given me a great gift, and I have come back feeling as though God has restored me in some very important ways. I’m grateful to you for your gift, and grateful to God for what he’s done with it.