Expanding our faith in God towards justice through the practice of sabbatical
Many times when we describe where we live and how we work alongside our neighbours, people’s eyebrows go up. Something along the lines of “Hmm, that must be very rewarding…” comes out of their mouths as they slowly back away. It is unusual for people to choose to experience the challenges found in many marginalized communities, while also trying to mobilize its strengths and resources. We have a weird life and we know it.
One more unusual aspect to our lives is our commitment to rest and restoration in our Rule of Life. In order to sustain our bodies, minds and souls in the midst of often pressure-filled situations, we practice rhythms of engagement and disengagement. We choose to be present to whatever is going on in the moment in our communities, and we leave our work unfinished for a day of sabbath, monthly days away for prayer and other retreats outside the neighbourhood. These short practices stretch the faith muscle that allows us to step away for a whole year of sabbatical every seven years.
“That must be nice”
Often we hear this phrase as our staff take a full year away from their community, to rest and then give attention to what God is preparing for them in their future role. After two to three months into the sabbatical, the internal dust settles in our minds, and we are able to be open to what we might need to do that we never had time to conceive of.
Indeed, it is “nice”, and yet not so easy, which is usually reflected in the tone of that statement. “That must be nice” could easily be translated into “well, I sure couldn’t afford to do that” - if we weren’t so polite.
Taking a year to disengage from the work we have put our hands to requires incredible courage! It also requires trust in our colleagues as they carry it forward without us, and faith that the goodness of God is present even when we are not there to manifest it by our human presence and strength. It is the best medicine to a saviour complex. And God knew that we needed that so he made the sabbath and sabbatical years a law!
“I’ve never heard of anyone of taking a year off!”
Yup, since God made this law in Leviticus 25, there is no record of the Israelites keeping it. Yikes!
“For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines.”
Exodus 23:11 explains why this is important. “...But the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat.”
Again in Deuteronomy, God describes his heart for justice and generosity:
“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts…You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised.” (Deuteronomy 15:4-6)
This commandment was meant for a nation live out as a whole. If you are interested in how God thought out how nations would relate to one another, as well as what the consequences of Israel’s disobedience you can invest further in Leviticus 26:33–35 and 2 Chronicles 36:21.
“What’s going to happen without you??”
Katelyn, our site leader in Saskatoon will begin her sabbatical in December. Since arriving in Saskatoon in 2018, she started her work in the Westside alone, recruiting a team and leading an internship. Out of these efforts, she developed four full-time staff who are leading many exciting projects.
Her intentional emphasis on finding sustainable practices to develop local ownership is the reason why she can leave the many good projects growing.
Had she planned to toil indefinitely, she would have made other leadership decisions in these past years that allowed her to be at the center of control for all things. This is not the leadership model of the Kingdom! We are to find our healing as we work for healing and restoration of others (Jeremiah 29:7). The impacts from our work and leadership roles have had on us can go unnoticed if we do not take good time to rest, reflect and get further training to lead with skill and wisdom.
God doesn’t intend for things to stop growing during a sabbatical year, but He does promise that the wild, volunteer things that will grow will be a blessing to everyone. It is this confidence that allows all staff, including Katelyn, to disengage from her leadership role for 12 months.
Please pray for her and her staff team in Saskatoon as they all write a new chapter of their journey with God and working in the Kingdom this coming year.
Learn more about how our other collective spiritual practices, along with sabbath, lays the foundation for our work of seeking God's shalom and community transformation.
Blog written by Krista-Dawn Kimsey