Sabbatical year

Looking Forward

I shared in an earlier post that we had decided not to look forward until 2014. We wanted any thoughts about home to focus on reflection and gratitude during the first half of our time away. But just like that, 2014 is here. With its coming, we know it’s time to begin looking forward.

Looking forward is about lots of things. Once we go back to Kentucky, we expect life to return to more typical (for us) forms. But we don’t intend our future to look just like our past. Just as New Year’s gives people a chance to reflect on their past year and make some adjustments for the year to come, we’ve all along intended this year to be a larger-scale version of that reflection and adjustment.

Whatever else it is, looking forward has to do with jobs. We need to begin looking at possibilities and having discussions with people about work. A few people contacted us about possibilities last fall, and we said we’d like to wait until now to have those discussions.

I come to that process with equal parts anxiety and restlessness. I loved a lot about pastoral ministry over the last 12 years. I loved the privilege of participating in some of the most important times of people’s lives––preparations for weddings and funerals and all the joy and hardship that surround those, new babies, praying with people through difficult decisions and struggles and celebrating with people after breakthroughs and miracles. I loved the opportunities to preach and lead and experiment with new ways of doing things and reintroduce ancient ways of doing things. And as with any vocation, there were parts I didn’t love. But more importantly, I’ve never had that same assurance of calling that I’ve heard from several other pastors––that assurance that God clearly has called me to the pastorate for all of life. Plenty of questions linger there.

So the anxiety in looking forward is that I know I’ll need to begin answering those questions, at least for the next season of life. And if not pastoral ministry, then what? And what opportunities will there be? And will any of them be the right fit? If you’ve ever had a time of unclarity about which direction you should take––and which directions will even be available––I’m sure you understand that anxiety.

The restlessness is more simple to explain. It feels good to have a direction and a plan. Planner that I am, I’ve never been just six months away from having no idea what was next.

The kids' table at the Día de Los Reyes party. Hannah won the prize for finishing her chocolate (think, thickest hot chocolate you've ever seen) first.
The kids’ table at the Día de Los Reyes party. Hannah won the prize for finishing her chocolate (think thickest hot chocolate you’ve ever seen) first.

Looking forward, being here

And then there’s the other side of looking forward––it reinforces that we’re here only six months more. People have asked how it affects things knowing that we’re only here temporarily. It increases urgency and makes us plan wisely about how we’re doing things––being sure that nothing that needs to continue is so reliant on us that it can’t work without us. But I think that’s all that it changes.

Some people have asked if being here temporarily makes us less likely to connect, or think more now about beginning to disconnect. Not at all. Wherever we are, we’re only there temporarily. Temporary may be measured in days or decades, but it will come to an end. Nothing gives me more urgency than that reminder.

So while our first six months have been primarily about developing foundations––gaining a small general understanding of our surroundings and meeting people, we hope to use our next six months to invest in those as much as we can––cultivating friendships, enjoying people, doing our best to support and encourage church leaders, and finding better and more opportunities to share the gospel.

With the reminder that all these things are temporary comes also the reminder of eternal life. We believe our brief time here is contributing to something eternal. Though the church buildings and structures will come to an end with all the rest, a church community is being drawn up into eternal life. What a great privilege to be a part of that work!

Looking forward brings a lot of new prayers. We’re praying for God to give us discernment and clarity about what we should be doing next, and that our own designs and desires don’t lead us astray. We’re praying for our new church here to take some big strides this spring and that we’ll be able to give helpful support and leadership to it. We’re praying to enjoy and develop relationships well, even with the knowledge that our time here is short.

If you’ve been praying for us, thank you! We’d especially appreciate prayers for thinking forward well, for the right opportunities to become available, and for God to give us discernment with those. Please continue to pray for our time here. Our church community is trying to make important decisions about worship locations, we have our next big worship service coming up this Saturday, and we have an important leaders’ retreat for training, prayer, and discussion about next steps on the following Saturday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s