We are now over a third of the way through a three-month sabbatical. One of the things the experience has already helped me understand is how much I am tempted to manage and control instead of receive and trust.
I was surprised at how quickly I was expecting to see some “results” from the sabbatical: a clear sense of what’s next for us, new revelation from Scripture, etc. But I’m learning that God’s gifts don’t work like that. I don’t manage and direct these kinds of things, I simply receive them and learn to trust the God who is always with me.
During Advent I was meditating on Isaiah 48:17-19 (following Richard Rohr’s devotional Preparing for Christmas), and was struck by the section I’ve highlighted in bold below:
This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants would have been like the sand,
your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be blotted out
nor destroyed from before me.”
Instead of trying to get “results” from this sabbatical, I am learning to simply receive the good gifts God sees fit to give every day, trusting him to bring us what is good in the proper time. Peace like an ever-flowing river, to be enjoyed and received, not a reservoir to be saved-up, managed, and controlled. Well-being like the waves of the sea, always rolling in, one after the other. Some bigger, some smaller, but faithful and consistent. Fruitfulness like grains of sand on the seashore, more than you could possibly count, more abundance than you could possibly manufacture by yourself.
All of it simply being received as a gracious gift, none of it earned as a result of hard work or good behavior. Instead of trying to get a pre-determined list of “results” from this sabbatical, I’m attempting to simply be here with God and my family and receive the gifts he wants to bestow, whatever they may be.
Another Advent story has been helpful for me as I lean into this. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a wonderful example of someone who knew how to receive and trust. The gift God gave her was unexpected and, in many ways, inconvenient and troublesome. But instead of trying to analyze, manage, or control the situation, she simply received it as good news and trusted that God knew what he was doing.
Her statement to Gabriel after “the big announcement” has become a bit of a mantra for me on sabbatical:
“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be unto me just as you have said.”
Paul Baldwin says
Love it. Thank you Ben. Sometimes I read a blog and am re-reminded that the Spirit is at work and will use anything to get my attention even when I haven't been paying attention. 🙂 In a world where I have been encouraged to earn, manage and control all that I have, God is calling me (yet again) into a posture of receiving and trusting in his love, grace, and mercy. Thanks for being used in this way bro. PB
Wow, great post man. Thanks for sharing.