You know those people that plan out their every moment, love to color code their calendars, and are not particularly fond of spontaneity? Well, I’m one of those people. I love a routine, and there is nothing more satisfying to me than when everything goes according to plan. Peace and calm is what I need. I’ve lived in a city of millions with the hustle and bustle frenzy everywhere, and I really don’t love it. I can adapt, but my heart always longs for quiet, structured days.
My husband, who is a pastor, and I recently took a six week sabbatical for the first time ever in over 22 years of ministry, and may be the only time we will ever do that. You may typically hear professors taking sabbaticals to get away and study abroad, take a semester off, etc., but we found that it was not a well-understood word in ministry when we announced we would be away. We were so supported, however, in our time away, and outpouring of prayer over our family was truly such an encouragement. For us, we have always been very intentional to take time to rest. While Sunday is a typical sabbath rest day for most everyone, it rarely epitomizes rest in the life of a pastor and his family. Usually our Sundays are flurries of activity as we spend most of our day at church. Understanding what rest looks like for our family has always been a very purposeful and planned out process, but even still, knowing how to navigate six weeks of time off presented us with a learning opportunity. Our desire was to take intentionality and apply it to every aspect of how we spent our days, even in the seemingly small stuff.
A bulk of the time I spent these past six weeks has been reading pretty much everything I could get into my hands. The books have been very centered around leadership development, whether it be as a wife, a mom, a friend, or the role of pastor’s wife. I have sought to rest in hearing from God in every area of life. As I look back over the things I’ve read in the books, coupled with the scripture during my quiet times, the thing that I see started it all for me to even arrive at a place of hearing and learning was this statement in Rebekah Lyons’ book, You Are Free. She says
“You cannot see the unknown until you release the known.”
Isn’t that really always the starting place for receiving what God is speaking into our lives? We must let go of the familiar, or what we think we know, in order to be ready to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. For me, that looked like remembering that we are always learners. We like to say to our team of staff in our church, “Grow the leader, grow the church.” I believe this applies to all of us as Christ-followers. A ready position to learn and hear is never a wrong move. It is, in fact, a posture of humility necessary if we are to follow. It may be a move that literally opens doors we never dreamed possible as God introduces big dreams, new vision for our lives, or the revealing of the callings He has placed upon us. As I’ve applied this to the many roles I live out in my life, I’ve realized that no matter the title, the calling, the job there is always room to improve. I’ve seen that while I’ve come to embrace the organized planner that God created me to be, that seeking to be intentional in the big and the small areas of my life to experience the unknown brings freedom. We often realize potential we never knew we possessed simply because a call to the unknown is a call to surrender control over to our Father who always knows the best for us.
Hardly a week goes by that we aren’t required to make big decisions. We may experience our world turn on a dime through a phone call saying that someone we love is very sick, or we must navigate our children from high school to the new world of college life, or maybe God has been leading us to see that He is using situation after situation to reveal a calling He is placing on our lives. Decisions can seem so much easier when we have had some past experience to lean on, but it’s those unknown “what if” scenarios that we would rather just set to the side and deal with later. It is during those times that having what I will call “a sabbatical mindset” is the challenge. Can we rest in the surrender of control to give up all we know for all God knows for us? Can we rest in not having all of the details, and watch Him write the story of our lives? Can we believe that His promise to always give us “peace that surpasses all understanding” is ever present when we just don’t know how we will make it?
I came to know Christ as my Savior at age 7. There is very little life experience or knowledge present in our lives at that age, but what I have never forgotten is what a very simple, dedicated Sunday School teacher showed me in how she loved and taught our class. It was her belief passed on to me that accepting Jesus into my heart simply required a childlike faith. Jesus told us in Matthew 18:2 to “become like children” in order to enter the kingdom of God. This told me then, and continues to remind me today, that trusting God even when I don’t have all of the knowledge or experience behind me or before me STILL requires that childlike faith to simply believe He knows my unknowns better than I do.
There is no doubt that some of you reading this are facing a world of unknowns before you today. The thought to rest and just allow God to take over seems almost far-fetched because worry and anxiety have consumed that place that God was meant to fill. I love when God puts neon signs around very obvious things we should do, don’t you? When I’m too unaware, or when it all doesn’t make sense, sometimes I just need a very in-my-face direction. What I have landed on time after time during these last few weeks is that whether we know the right thing to do, or know what it takes to uncover the right thing to do, we must do what author Maria Goff says,
“We all start by starting.”
We eventually must choose to either rest in Him, or do nothing at all to open space to hear from Him. As I’ve walked with God for the last 36 years of my life, choosing to intentionally take time to rest in the unknown has never been the easy thing to do, but it has always been the right thing to do. Make the room, trust the hand, and obediently walk in this unknown path He sets before you. Reward is always in following Him.