In the third entry of this sabbatical journey, I talked about some of the biblical principles that are shaping my time during sabbatical. One of those biblical principles is the idea of giving freely to those who struggle in poverty. I wrote the following:
Provision for the poor. This is a year of being generous and sharing of what we have for those who have less among us. More than usual, I will say “yes” to those who ask; I will seek to give at each and every opportunity. I have started carrying a “Sabbath Year portion” of cash to give away in these opportunities. I am excited to share some of those stories. Simply put, we’re trying to say yes, rather than overthinking it this year. We are trying to walk toward those in need when we see it, rather than avoid.
It’s one of the areas where I have some stories and reflections to share. Not only was it a biblical principle identified in my study of the Sabbath Year, but we also have other staff at Impact Campus Ministries who practice this. I remember hearing stories from Zack Dean and Jeff Vander Laan about what they learned during their sabbaticals. I am thankful for how they pioneered the way in this.
It’s been a while since my last entry because I have been on the road. I think it was a couple trips ago and I was driving to my hotel late at night. I was reflecting on my sabbatical and the things I was hoping to experience. I was thinking about the “sabbatical generosity fund” I am carrying around and how I hadn’t engaged the practice yet. Was I too insulated now in my career that I wasn’t rubbing shoulders with those less fortunate than me? Had I subconsciously designed my life to no longer be exposed to this pain? Years ago, I ran a ministry outreach that worked with our local community and those who struggled with homelessness. Was this no longer true about me? I was frustrated and insecure and angrily praying with God.
As I approached the exit for my hotel, they were doing construction on the ramp and I had to keep driving to the next exit. It was late at night, sometime around 11 pm, and I was one of the only people on the highway. I caught the next exit and pulled up to the light. There was no traffic. One of those struggling folks holding a cardboard sign sitting on the curb right out my driver’s side window, head hanging between his knees, was likely asleep at this hour.
I know this sounds ridiculous, and I feel like a fool writing it, but I didn’t make the connection between my prayers and this opportunity to incarnate that wrestling match.
Late at night. No traffic.
And the light was still red.
It was almost a “sun standing still” moment from the book of Joshua. I’m not claiming a miracle by any means, but I do feel like God may have been saying, “Are you seriously not getting this?”
Light was still red.
I was glad that my rental car had one of those automatic “shut-offs” so I wasn’t disturbing the sleeping man to my left.
And then it dawned on me.
I rolled down the window. “Hey man, you looking for some help?” His sleepy head shot up. “Oh! Hey! Yeah, wow, thanks for saying something.” I handed him some cash and told him I hoped he’d get to enjoy some breakfast. We chatted about how long he had been in the area and we exchanged some names and pleasantries. He thanked me again and I felt like the interaction was exactly what God had for both of us. I was glad that our paths intersected that night on the detour from my exit.
As I rolled up my window, almost as if on cue, the light turned green. No other cars had passed any direction. I returned to the highway and started making my way back to the exit I needed. I reflected on the verse from Hebrews about entertaining angels, always wondering “how that works.” Beyond that, I wondered if part of the rhythm of sabbatical is teaching us to break out of our regular rhythms. I wondered how many people I don’t “see” because I have learned to just drive past or continue on with my day. As slow as I was on the uptake, I thanked God for the sabbatical opportunity to “wake up” and see things with a fresh take.
And maybe next time I won’t need a miraculously long red light to see what God might be inviting me to do.