Taking Sabbath

Something I love about my personal walk with God is when I am struggling in an area or trying to learn something new he just has a way of putting the right words of encouragement or teaching in my path to guide me in the way I should go.  This happened just recently for me.

Every year we meet with the other mission teams in Peru for a retreat.  Greg and I were super stoked about this “get-away” because the last time we took a family vacation was our last furlough (almost a year and a half ago).  You may think that sounds crazy, but in reality, when you look at visitors coming in, interns staying for extended periods, the time when the other missionary family is away for furlough, conferences or campaigns happening, time goes by quickly.  I will admit, my ministry partner sometimes struggles with work-aholicism.  We do have our day-off in the week for rest, no Spanish, and time with our kids as a family, but I miss taking that weekend trip to see family of friends just to “get out of town.”  In my heart and mind, I have been back-and-forth in what is biblical for taking vacation.

I realize there is a side to maintaning a healthy well-being, and sometimes a vacation is how we rejuvenate ourselves.  I realize that we are in charge of taking care of our family, and that might mean taking a vacation in order to get away from everything and make them feel important and loved.  But on the flip side of that, something that doesn't sit well with me is when I hear people from the states telling missionaries, “Take a break.  Do something American.  You deserve it.  We know how hard it is for you there.  It is fine to enjoy the luxuries of your home.  Take some time off.”  Let me explain...

I am convinced that Jesus fulfilled the law.  One of those laws was in keeping with the Sabbath.  There are multiple examples of Jesus pointing out that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.  So what does “taking the Sabbath” look like for me in my ministry right now?  I have been thinking about this a lot.  So I look at Paul- a fellow missionary.  Do I ever hear him say, “Take a vacation.  Take a break.  You deserve it.”  No.  What do I hear him say?  “Persevere.  Take courage.  Persevere.  Die to yourselves.  Persevere.  Run the race.  Fight the good fight.  Persevere.”  Hmm.  That sounds a bit different.  So then I look at the ultimate example- Jesus.  What does he say?  “Disciples, let's take a break from this world.  I mean, look at me.  I grew up in Heaven for pities sake.  Let's find a resort somewhere and reenergize ourselves.  I can't take these cultural differences for much longer.”  I don't think so!  

How did Jesus take Sabbath?  

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
— Mark 1:35

Jesus took Sabbath in resting in the arms of his Father.  That was rejuvenation for him.  That is what kept him going.  That is what prevented burnout.  

So we took this retreat last week with the other mission teams (which can I just tell you was an absolute blast!).  I was so relieved to get out of Arequipa, but something tugged at me in my thinking about “needing a retreat.”  I live among people that have never been outside of the city where they were born.  I live among people that work solid days from sun-up to sun-down Monday through Saturday.  I live among people that can't afford “vacation” and would look at you like you were crazy if you asked about their “vacation days” in their work schedule.  I felt a bit guilty.

Shortly before leaving for the retreat, I read a blog post from a missionary mom in Thailand.  She wrote about living radically and what that means.  “Radical” has become a pop-Christianity culture word lately.  Many would say that moving to a foreign country is living radically, but that isn't what this girl's message was.  She said something I needed to hear.  Living radically is about living in the presence of the Lord.  Living radically is basking in the presence of our Father and laying it all at his feet.  She quoted from Psalm 27:4  “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

During our retreat, different missionaries shared at various times.  One of these times, Greg led some thoughts about reflecting over the year.  He shared that he has learned a lot in the book of Acts regarding Paul's life and example.  As much as we want to idolize Paul as THE missionary example, he is just like one of us.  At one point in his story, he writes to the Christians to say, “Look at what the Lord has done through my ministry.”  It isn't about Paul.  It isn't about what he has done.  It is about what the Lord has done THROUGH Paul's ministry.

The next day, another missionary shared about “Sabbath” specifically.  This is the point in my course of thoughts where something just seemed to click.  Our brother pointed out that God rested on the seventh day.  We have the Sabbath because God made that day holy.  It wasn't just because God needed a rest.  It was because “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good...Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 1:31;2:3)  Sabbath has everything to do with stopping to rest, and looking at what the Lord has done.  Stopping, and realizing that we are not in control.  God is.  Stopping, and thanking God not for what we have done, but for what he has done, and knowing that it is good.

Sometimes, I need a week-long retreat to step away, stop, and look at what the Lord is doing.  It isn't me.  He wants me.  He wants to work through me, but I am totally dependent on him.  And living radically isn't pouring myself out day after day until I reach burn-out.  Living radically is living in him.  Living radically is pouring myself out day after day, but taking the time to go to that solitary place and basking in the presence of the only one that can fill me up.

I am so thankful for the time of Sabbath we were able to share with our fellow workers in Peru.  Greg and I will come home with our family for furlough the end of next month.  You can count on us living it up on Tex-Mex and doing some fun “vacation-like” things as a family.  But what I am most excited about is sharing what the Lord has been doing through our ministry.  I can truly look back over the last two years and tell you, “It is good!”