By Ps Lim Wei-en
I recently returned from a three-month Sabbatical from work and, in this pastoral page, I share some candid reflections on what I experienced and learnt.
It was clear from the start of my Sabbatical that because COVID restrictions would prevent me from travelling overseas (and sometimes even going outdoors), the journey I would be taking during this break would be an inward rather than outward one.
An inward journey has similarities to an outward journey. In both cases, there is much exploring to be done, new discoveries to be made, with a similar end goal of expanding one’s horizons in life. The big difference between the two, however, is that the discoveries on an inward journey pertain to the contours of one’s soul rather than the sights and sounds other lands have to offer.
By the grace of God, the inward journey I took turned out to be an insightful, though humbling, one. I was brought face to face with some of my hidden and dark sides, which led me through a period of soul searching and ultimately, a renewed relationship with God.
Sabbatical started with me “shutting down”. I spent the first two weeks sleeping a lot, bereft of energy and unable to give myself fully to my readings and my relationships. This is perhaps of no surprise given that I had had a very intense season of ministry for the past few years, especially in the months preceding the Sabbatical.
Following those initial weeks, after I was a bit more physically rested, I began to pay attention to a range of sins that I observed in myself. These included anger, sloth, pride and lust, expressed in my actions and thoughts. During a personal retreat, I was also made aware that I had been wrestling with some negative messages in my head, such as, “I am a failure”, “I am unlovable”, “I am unclean”. These messages had somehow become internalized in me through constant negative self-talk and things people had said in the past, even though I knew these messages were not rooted in the Biblical truth of who I am in Christ.
As I reflected on why these sins and messages were plaguing me, I noticed unhealthy habits in my life that were not beneficial in this battle for my mind and heart. These included not sleeping enough, not exercising enough, comfort eating, mindlessly surfing television at the end of a long, hard day and not taking time to adequately connect with God, others and myself.
Realizing and acknowledging these unhealthy patterns of life was the first step in my process of getting healthier in every sense. With God’s help, I started to put in place simple disciplines that would keep and guard my time with him and his influence in my life. In addition to waking up earlier to start the day with Bible reading and prayer, I also made it a point to exercise regularly, and cut down on snacking as a form of comfort. Limiting my use of devices at night, I slept earlier and for longer hours. I was also more intentional about connecting with my wife and children each day.
These minor tweaks to my daily routines, coupled with the active discipline to keep to them, began making a difference to my overall health and walk. After a couple of months living in these new rhythms of life, I come back from my Sabbatical feeling more rested and more energetic. I feel closer to my family and have been more present in my conversations with others. My struggles with the above-mentioned sins and false messages have lessened. Most importantly, I have re-learnt what it means to dwell in God’s love, and to allow that love to motivate me in my work and relationships.
It is my hope and prayer that every worshipper in our church community can similarly operate from a place of wholeness in Christ. Wholeness is not about being free from external struggles and conflicts (which we will always have, this side of eternity). Rather, it is about having God in the centre of our being and doing all things in reference to that centre.
If any of us feel that we have been living life, relating with others, or doing work and ministry through a source of power other than the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in our lives, it probably means we are not whole. For these dear ones, I would humbly suggest taking time (and perhaps time off from regular life) to re-evaluate where our true centre is – who or what are we living for? What is the source of our strength, hope and confidence? May “God” always be the answer to these important life questions and may we always live our lives with him in the centre.