Jesus’s best advice was often wordless. As he quietly moved back and forth between the solitude and the multitude, he modeled healthy spirituality for all of us. We belong to the multitude. We were designed for communal life in all its messiness and joy. Social science research confirms that we thrive best in the give and take of life together, but we cannot give what we have not received. The community has needs we cannot meet, and we have needs that the community cannot meet. We also belong, it turns out, to God and need solitude to avail ourselves to what only God can give. Each of us needs—as a wise pastor once told me—enough time away from people that we have something to give them when we’re with them.
The last time I was a candidate for a sabbatical, I made a tactical error, filling the month with a “special project” and coming back as tired as when I started. Oops! Therefore, in October of this—my 10th—year at First Baptist, I’m going to try to be a better follower of Jesus’s wordless advice: time immersed in the solitude of the San Juan mountains, and time immersed in the multitude of Manhattan, a very different kind of communal life from GreenVegas, SC! I’ll be away October 3-30.
This is only possible because of three miraculous gifts. First, you decided as a church, a long time ago, to care for your ministers in this way. Words can’t express my gratitude for that! Secondly, my colleagues and lay ministers are willing to stand in the gap and make sure Pastoral Care ministries are covered for the month. Thank you, colleagues! Thirdly, sisters and brothers in Christ in far-flung places have responded to their own calling to provide hospitality to ministers who need rest. I am truly amazed by how beautiful and thoroughly unselfish their generosity is.
Please continue to call the church and notify the ministers about prayers that need praying, needs that need meeting, and concerns that need to be shared. Will you please pray for me? I don’t want to “fail at sabbatical” again, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite the next time it’s my job to ask you: How well are you balancing your need to minister to others with your need for time apart, allowing God to minister to you?