Yesterday morning I drove the scenic route to Morro Bay and reflected on life, death, and my time on sabbatical. In less than a week I’ll be “back in the office” and will return to my role as the Minister-at-Large with Jews for Jesus. Has it really been three months since I met with David and told him I needed a break? Has it really been six months since Sean died? I still can’t fully wrap my mind around it all… Maybe I never will.
My family got through our first Christmas without Sean. It was hard. It was painful. A year ago I thought we’d be celebrating Sean’s remission during Christmas 2014, but instead I found myself grieving the infinite difference between our past hopes and our current reality. Death sucks.
I don’t cry about Sean’s death anymore, and I don’t feel the overwhelming anxiety very often- the anxiety that takes my breath away and makes me feel like I’m suffocating. I feel a dull aching pain when I think of Sean, but I feel hopeful about my future, I have appreciation for my family and friends, and I experience joy in the simple things like wrestling with my kids and having tea with my wife.
I’m looking forward to returning to work. I love working! While on sabbatical from ministry I did manual labor, I did contract design work, I programmed, I consulted about social media, and I cooked… a lot! This time off from ministry has allowed me to develop a better focus, on what I want, on where I need to grow, and on how I need to use my time. On January 5th I will be fully back! Taking meeting, writing, speaking, managing, coordinating, etc..
I’ve developed a lot more compassion through this season. Compassion for the sick, the suffering, the depressed, the oppressed, those who don’t have access to modern medicine, etc.. I love the Gospel as Good News, but I’ve learned to love the Gospel as Transformative Power. I want to do more good, and this is new for me… For the first time in my life I have been convicted by versus like James 1:27
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
and like Ecclesiastes 3:12
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;
I’m still wrestling to find and implement a balance of truth and grace (doctrine and compassion) in my life and in my ministry, but I know that my priorities have shifted and that compassion has become more important in my walk with God.
My time on sabbatical has been split between deep introflection, the disciplined pursuit of slowness and less, and intentional time with family. I prayed a lot.
I’m a generally introspective person, but sabbatical gave me time to drift between thoughts without time constraint. I recognized some of my self-limiting beliefs, areas where I’ve given into a “victim mentality”, and I began working through those things. I recognized areas where I’ve allowed certain aspects of my life to become too central to my identity – my weaknesses, my strengths and my work – and I began working through those things. I recognized choices I had made for the wrong reasons – prestige or fear – and tried to simplify my life. I compared my values to my actions and made adjustments as necessary.
I became a stay-at-home parent! Rachelle was able to work as a Sign Language Interpreter again without having to deal with arranging babysitters. I got to know my kids better, and developed a much greater appreciation for the work of child-rearing that happens between the hours of 8:00AM and 6:00PM. I’ll be totally honest… If I ever can afford it I will hire a part-time nanny, a weekly housekeeper, and a bi-weekly gardener. I use to think these were silly luxuries, but now I completely appreciate why people hire others to help. Plus, my kids love babysitters!
I realized that I want a 4 bedroom house… Not that this is or ever will be a reality in San Francisco. Living in a 2 bedroom house makes it difficult for out-of-town visits from grandparents and friends. But, Rachelle and I agree that if we lived in a 4 bedroom house, we still would have all our kids in one room (at least until puberty)… This would leave 2 bedrooms for guests! Someday… Someday…
I developed a focussed desire for impact: for massive impact and for exponential growth. I rejected the notion of “busyness” as an indicator of success. Understanding the “why” and having actionable and measurable goals helps with this! I realized I need to do less (or even do nothing) in certain areas until I can articulate why something needs to be done, develop actionable goals, and know how to measure the impact.
I embraced my diverse interests! I enjoy programming, entrepreneurship, writing, promoting good causes, design, fitness, food, art, and silliness. I’ll be making time in my life for exploring and growing in these things. I love ministry, but I love the other experiences of life too! For a long time I felt constrained in ministry – as if God was calling me to give up all my other interests, or that if I received a paycheck from Jews for Jesus, that I shouldn’t do other work on the side even if I had the time, ability, or ambition to do so – but I’ve moved past those feelings of constraint!
Today I drive back to San Francisco. My dedicated time of introflection is coming to an end, but one of my commitments is to consistent writing. So expect to hear from me more often…
Here’s to 2015!