I’m thinking, when The Nester hosts the next 31 Days series, I’ll write about our church. Now, don’t hold me to it (you do know it’s more than four months away, right?), but I realize, with all my talk about multicultural congregations, you don’t know much about my church at all. You don’t know how this multicultural church talk jibes with my life…or if it does at all. I may have given you glimpses, but I’m not sure you’ve got the full picture. And, when I think about sitting down and using this space to tell you about it, I realize 600 words doesn’t quite do it justice.
Today, let me simply tell you this: When I say multicultural church work is difficult, I’m not telling you something I’ve heard people say. I’m telling you something I’ve lived. And, saying, “It’s difficult,” isn’t really even touching the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Doing ministry with people who look like me, is difficult. Doing ministry with people who speak my language is one of the greatest challenges this side of heaven. But, doing ministry among a mixture of people and cultures and languages and histories and backstories and skin colors and cooking habits and household traditions and worship styles and hair textures and music choices and hygiene preferences and… Yeah. Whew.
I wouldn’t change it for anything.
To be completely honest, however, you need to know I wouldn’t have said that even one year ago. This work has taken its toll; on my family, my mental health, my faith, my commitment to the Body of Christ, my belief in the power of grace, my belief in the truth that God sees me and loves me and that God is good. Not too many months ago, I almost bailed. No joke.
I don’t want to make light of others who serve in ministry, and the unique challenges they face. But, God has seen fit to call H and me to ministry where we are often out of our comfort zone; outside of familiar territory.
So yeah. I almost quit. I almost lost hope and faith and belief in God. What brought me back? Simply this: I caught my breath.
Through a series of miraculous and ordinary events, God used our church to send us on sabbatical. For three months, we had no ministry responsibilities. We didn’t go to church. We didn’t read churchy books. We didn’t talk with any church people. We travelled. We slept. We ate. We exercised. We explored. We talked. We wandered. We wondered. We stayed up late. We asked questions. We met people. We were quiet. We didn’t rush. We took pictures. We got lost. We danced. We went out to breakfast. We sat still. We drank coffee. And wine. We stared out the window. We cleaned the sinks. We visited friends. We shoveled snow. We skied. We caught our breath. We found our groove, again.
“I’ve heard churches say they can’t afford to send their Pastor on sabbatical,” H said. “I don’t know. I don’t think a church can afford not to send their Pastor on sabbatical.”
Sabbatical originated with God. After creating the entire world, God ceased from His work. That was the first sabbatical. We — as is our custom — have tainted the idea of sabbatical. We’ve made it a break from one type of work, in order to attend to another type of work. We take sabbaticals and we schedule the writing of books, or taking of classes, or learning of languages. In fact, when we were preparing for our sabbatical, H made a list of books he would read and he planned to write a paper to present when he returned to the church. “I feel guilty if I’m not working on something,” he said. But, it was as if God was pressing on both of us to put the striving away and enjoy the good things, simply because God is good.
That first, holy sabbath has no verses written about it in the bible. When God rested on that seventh day, God rested. Period. There is nothing hidden. Nothing left out. No secret agenda. On the seventh day, God caught God’s breath. And in doing so, God gives you (and me) permission to do the same.
If you’re interested in more conversations like these, I encourage you to click through to the !dea Camp blog. !dea Camp is a community gathering taking place in Austin, TX, September 20 and 21. This year’s focus is on Caring for Others & Caring for Caretaker. Speakers include Sarah Markley, Seth Haines, Mike Rusch, Dan King, Lindsey Nobles, Bianca Olthoff, Chris Marlow, Jennie Allen, Matt Mooney (more on Matt, later this week), and Kristen Howerton (to name a few). For more information, or to register, click here.