Back from Sabbatical

I am back.  Miss me?

Thank you to the many of you who reached out to let me know you were praying for me while I was on my Sabbatical.  And, thank you to the many of you who wished me well, it was very much appreciated.

So how was it?  It was good.  It was a chance to rest up a bit and be refreshed.  It was a chance to learn and
dream about this work God has called me too. It was a chance to work on some stuff I needed to work on in my own life with the help of the Holy Spirit.  That’s a work in progress and I don’t think God is done talking to me or shaping me yet.  It was a chance to connect with friends who care about me and get their input and insight.  How could that not be good?

I am grateful for the opportunity I have to step away like that and as I reflect on the experience, there are a few things I noticed that I would like to pass along.

1) Folks who take a Sabbatical (or even a break/ rest/ whatever) aren’t always doing it as a last resort before they have a full on break down.  Yes, I was tired.  But I wasn’t burnt out (as far as I can tell and I did check with folks).  So, I was curious at the number of calls the office received wondering if I was coming back, and at the number of folks who pulled me aside and talked in hushed tones to see if I was ok.  I am very grateful for the care and concern behind all of that. I even understand it a bit.  Maybe that’s the problem.  We need to start
making rest and vacation and Sabbath and Sabbatical normal, not a last resort.  In our own minds and as we talk to others.

2) Along the same lines…sometimes folks who take a break are doing it as a last resort.   I know some who have.  I think if that’s the case, it might be too late.  It doesn’t work very often.  Or for very long.  The best time to take a break is before it is your last resort.  It will be far more effective. 

3) For those of you that know me it will come as no surprise that I am not great with silence and solitude and those types of things.  But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good for me.  We all have ways we connect with God most naturally.  We need to be open to other spiritual pathways so that we can experience and understand God in a new and different way.  So, for me I need to engage in silence and solitude from time to time.  For some of you it will be regular Sabbath or praying out loud or joining a small group or…. well you get the idea

There are other things that I learned or that I am sorting through that I am sure will leek into my work and writing as we go.  For now, here is what I would like us all to think about.

I know that not everyone can take a Sabbatical like I did.  But, we can all build rest and renewal and refreshing into our lives, and we need to.  Those things (days off, Sabbath, vacation) are gifts from God for us.  If I am honest, I am not always good at enjoying those gifts and being grateful for them.  My hope for all of us is that we learn to rest.  To be refreshed.  To take breaks.  To Sabbath.  Not to do nothing but to enjoy family and friends and hobbies and worship and time with our Heavenly Father and all those things we need to live life to the fullest.  Let’s all step into all that God has for us – His mission for us, His call on us, the roles He has given us and His desire that we rest in Him and find all we need. 

It is good to be back.

Marc McAlister
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada.