Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Courage to Be Renewed

Some in the church wonder why a leave-taking could be courageous. For a pastoral leader to take a leave may be considered courageous for several reasons, but first let's talk about courage.

I see courage as a nexus between fear and love. It's the point at which I'm willing and able to sacrifice because of my love for others in my unit, family, team, or community. Love is the underlying motivation for any act of courage, large or small.

Many of the barriers to taking sabbatical are wrapped up in our fears: uncertainty over how renewal leave or sabbatical will impact me and others in my life-- my family, spouse, or church. What about career? Will opportunities to move up be missed? The other barrier is frankly, a mix of demigod, super- human delusion, and ego: will I be seen as weak and ineffective because I've admitted the need?

Here's what the guide Clergy Renewal says: "Discerning the season in one's own life may be among the most difficult tasks. It will require moving through one's own exhaustion, disillusionment, and pain. In order to craft a realistic and refreshing plan, it will mean honestly examining the hopes, dreams, and expectations one has."

The season of discernment, testing the spirits, and even facing your demons, implies a willingness to let go and see in ways that are impossible on the 24/7 schedule of church. The biblical renewal we preach and teach does require courage. I believe those who take sabbatical are helpful examples for the rest of us. They are stepping out and saying to all of their clergy peers that there's no excuse for self-neglect and burn-out. And losing that excuse may require the most courage of all!

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