Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Sabbath and Savior Complexes and Why It's Good to Step Away

So you might know that we stepped away from our ministry and our life here in Costa Rica for a while back at the end of February. We spent March and the first week of April in the States, with a little side jaunt to Africa in the middle.

Since we've been back in Costa Rica, moving and getting settled in the new mission home and getting organized for a full scale medical mission in May have occupied the bulk of  our time. We are still doing some preparation work for our new and improved St. Francis Emmaus Center, and while we are open to women who need us, we have not yet really begun to do the full level of promotion work and educational programming that is planned for the future.

Mostly, I feel like we stepped away and have yet to return full swing to the focus of our ministry here. And some days, even though I know it's a necessary place to be, it makes me edgy and grumpy. I see this big vision right on the verge of unfolding, and I am frustrated to have to step back from it. When we were getting ready to leave for our trip to the States, I was down right sad and anxious about stepping away. Like we were leaving some sort of missionary Brigadoon or something and risking it would not be here when we came back.

That feeling rattled around a lot in my thoughts while we were away, and it came to the forefront again this weekend as I thought about sabbath with the lovely ladies of Velvet Ashes. You see, I have realized that this is exactly what I have been walking in my life lately. When we think of sabbath. we ordinarily think about the one day of the week we set aside for worship and rest. But I think there are also sabbath seasons in our lives, when we are called to step away from our work and our service for a time. A time to reflect, build vision, but also a time to worship and rest.

I love the idea of sabbath, theoretically speaking. But when I am called to live it, I realize I am not so fond of it in practice. I like to rest, for sure. On my time, when I decide that I am tired and ready to step away (or when I decide I am frustrated and stomp away in a huff). But stepping away as a spiritual discipline? Not quite as easy.

You see, we ministry-minded, missional-living Jesus-lovers, we are generally passionate, fiery, and compelled about the callings God has placed on our hearts. And while that often serves us well, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, we spend so much time battling back loneliness, frustration, and the hardships of this life we live chanting to ourselves the mantra that what we are doing is important--important to God, important to the church, important to the people that we serve--that we get an overinflated view of our own importance.

We can begin to convince ourselves that the very life of a place or an organization or a church or a people depends on our presence and availability, and that stepping away will mean the very demise, or at least severe slow-down, of a work we have sacrificed so much to bring about. We can easily get attached to the idea that the work is ours and depends on us. That the saving is ours to do. We coyly refer to this as a Savior complex. But it is no joke. It is real. And it is an awful feeling when you recognize it in yourself.

As I walked in sadness and insecurity of stepping away for a month, I realized I had let it creep into me --again. A sense of self-importance that makes me feel overly responsible for people. I wholeheartedly believe that the work we are doing with pregnant moms here is important, that it will save lives. But the truth is, I am not the author of life. And He who is was at work long before I arrived and will still be at work long after I am gone.

This place, these people went on for generations without me. And yet, I had begun to fret that so much would unravel in my short absence. Stepping away gave me an awareness of some really out of order attachments I was developing. And it forced me to surrender them, to trade them off for rest.

And I came back, and do you know what? Everyone's lives had gone on pretty much as normal. There was nothing catastrophic to report. I am sure people died and babies were born and some people lived some pretty poignant moments in their lives in that month. But they managed to survive it without me at their sides.

And this is very good. It reminds me and them that the very best work we can do here, all of us, is to day after day put ourselves in God's hands and at His disposal. And when He whispers "Come away with me, my love," we should obey. Because He sometimes takes us out of one place so we can remember that we are dust. Not unimportant or inconsequential in the least, but a very small part of the work of a very big God, who sustains and moves and loves with or without us.

There is no reason for us to overburden ourselves with responsibilities that are not ours to bear. If God has called us to a work, He will certainly equip us to do it. But He will also keep working through other ways and means in that place, and at times, He will call us to step back from the work so we can see the masterpiece He is creating in our midst and remember the work is and always has been and always will be His.

Yes, it is good for us to step away and honor the Sabbath. Whether it means that we step back from the running and the pursuit of perfection in our everyday laundry load, kitchen floor, car ride lives, or whether it mean we take a season to pull back and let God linger in the work He has called us to while He directs us elsewhere for a while.

Because we can let the race of striving and self-importance push us through dishes and laundry while building secret resentment behind a facade of competence just as easily as we can bubble ourselves into the proverbial hamster wheel of our ministry or our calling and forget that we are not made for a race. We are made for a love affair.

And sabbath is the love note of the Lover of our souls. And if we do not have time to read a love note slipped into the week of our lives, or to savor a long love letter penned across a season of our lives, we have missed it, friends. Jumped the shark on this Jesus thing.

Yes, yes, Love does. But first, Loves loves. And if we forget the love affair for the doing, forget the rest for the fervor, the passionate fire burning in our bellies will end up all burned embers and smoke screens, and all too soon we will find ourselves going through the motions confused about who we are and pretending to love something we don't.

So step away. Run away with Him when He calls. Take the world off your shoulders for a while Atlas, and look there! See how it still spins without you. There is great freedom and great humility in that recognition. And it is good.

The Grove - Sabbath
Linking this post up over at
The Grove at Velvet Ashes

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