Only five days of sabbatical leave to go! Where has the rest of it gone? And, more importantly, how do I prepare to return to duties as a pastor of a local Baptist church?
I have a picture in my mind from childhood years. It’s one of watching and waiting ….for the return, as covered in black and white, and very grainy pictures by the BBC, of an Apollo spacecraft. In fact, there was always very little left of what went up. Sections of the original rocket were jettisoned only minutes after take-off, whilst the lunar landing module was left in space. Only a small capsule survived re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere to fall fairly gently, with the aid of parachutes, to ‘splashdown’ into the ocean. After that, the astronauts were recovered and whisked away to face the world’s media before, presumably, being re-united with their families and taken away again for a debrief. There must have some sense of regret and relief: regret at the ending of a unique experience in space, which might never be know again; relief at a safe return to ‘normality’.
I think it is regret and relief that sum up my feelings at this time. Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:28-29). I have enjoyed receiving the rest that Jesus gives: through time with family and good friends, visiting many churches and new places, reading new authors, increasing physical fitness through golf, cycling and a diet. It won’t be quite so easy to do any of those things now, but I hope they all continue. Yet I have missed the day-to-day business and busy-ness that comes with pastoring a church, and I am looking forward to finding out what the church has been up to!
There are obvious things I can do to prepare for re-entry (prayer, preparation, planning), but perhaps it is the rest that has been the preparation? Rested, renewed and refreshed, I’m hoping that a new period of fruitful ministry lies ahead.