Without a question, the most precious thing about my recent Sabbatical leave has been the gift of having unhurried time with God, whether it was time spent worshipping God in songs, praying, reading His word and being quiet with Him. You could call this the spiritual practices of silence and solitude, a feature of Jesus’ life. No matter how busy and demanding his schedule was, he made sure he had unhurried time with God, the Father.
Dr Porter who teaches theology, philosophy and spiritual formation at Biola University, did some work around how we cultivate a loving, vibrant relationship with God we cannot see. (for more:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GqNdSGVtEI). He concludes that it is through spiritual disciplines or practices. I commend his definition of spiritual disciplines:
“The disciplines are embodied practices in a physical world whereby we present ourselves to the immaterial reality of the Spirit/presence and Word/truth of Christ”.
It wasn’t that I didn’t spend time with God prior to my Sabbatical but it was hurried and inconsistent; inconvenient at other times. Devotional readings for instance would be done as quickly as possible so I could get to other more urgent matters to do with living and working.
The Sabbatical put a stop to this cycle of constant exhale and allowed me to pull back from my usual and unhealthy rhythms of life and have unhurried time with God. Slowly but surely, my time with God pivoted from being a means to an end to one that is about glorifying and enjoying Him, to borrow the words of the famous Westminster Catechism.
In the last two retreats, where I waited in His presence, applying an exercise from a book I knew He led me to read, the Holy Spirit brought to mind two childhood memories that I was conscious of but oblivious at the same time, to the deep wounds embedded in them. I wept as the Lord began gently healing me.
The key to this pivotal moment in my life has been having unhurried time with God. It has been so life changing, it is a practice I have committed myself to preserving since returning to work. It is a practice I cannot do without, not if I want to stay refreshed in the long journey ahead of me.