Sabbatical Chronicles by Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while” (Mark 6:31a)

I have been sharing with my staff and volunteers, the importance of rest and renewal. Sometimes I don’t model it the way I need to. I am a workhorse and have been this way for many years. But now that I am older, I am beginning to make a shift for the better. When I left in May, I was drained and over-extended. I slept the first three weeks before traveling to Costa Rica and many days in-between traveling. Sleeping 50% of my sabbatical taught me the importance of starting over, setting boundaries, working smarter not harder, and appreciating the value of my spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. We must set boundaries around our time, space, livelihood, and agency and identity. There is no sin in that.

As pastors and leaders, we do ourselves and those we serve a disservice by not bringing our best selves to our work. For so long, there has been this mentality of “success in overworking,” taking on the God-complex, and overextending ourselves. And to add the Pandemic to this cycle, I know many of us are spiritually drained, exhausted, and fear taking time off to just rest. We are sleep-deprived leaders who have never led through a Pandemic, so how do we do it? Just rest. Spend time with your family, work on your favorite hobby, binge on your favorite food. It did me a world of good. And I pray that it would do the same for you. God sent Jesus into the world to die on the cross, as our Lord and Savior. I don’t think God needs any help being God!

One book that convicted me is entitled “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry” by Ruth Haley Barton. Warning: Don’t attempt to read the book if you are not ready to critically examine your relationship with God. Our staff will be reflecting on this book as we head into a time of retreat in October.

Jesus modeled work-life balance for us throughout scripture. Whenever he would minister and pour out of himself, he would pull away, spend time in solitude and prayer, call his Disciples away to listen, refresh, and then head back out in the field to heal and set more captives free.

As I renew my “Yes” to the Great River Region, I do so with a new commitment to take care of myself in all these areas. We have permission to take care of our body, mind, and spirit. That way, we bring the best of who we are, to minister, pray with power, serve faithfully, think critically and strategically with our teams, and focus on getting through this Pandemic; to see what the end will be!