The BEMA Podcast

Love God. Love others. Become people of the Text.

Reflecting on the Essence

One of the things I’m enjoying about this sabbatical journal is the consistent invitation to reflect on the essence of the Sabbath Year and my objectives for this time. I certainly haven’t seen the success I know I was imagining for some of these items months ago. The time to go back and reconsider is also an opportunity to recalibrate and make adjustments. It provides me with the opportunity to do this without judgment or self-condemnation. I can accept things as they are, be honest, and make the adjustments.

It has also provided a time to pause and realize there are things that are constantly going on under the surface. The stuff that isn’t “on paper” or screaming at you from the circumstances, because those are easy to see. Many of these things are hard to categorize and talk about because they aren’t really “this” or “that,” but I’m not sure I would have paid any attention to them without the intentionality of my sabbatical.

One example of this is the commitment to first fruits. While there is nothing unique to the Sabbath Year when it comes to first fruits, the principles of recognizing God’s provision and trusting him with those first portions is even more poignant during times like this. The practice of tithing or first fruits seems to be humming with what I might call the “spirit of sabbatical practice.” Our church was recently doing construction on their website and the online giving platform was down for a season. The commitment to make sure we got our tithe in was unique to this time we are in. I recently got paid one of the advance installments for my upcoming book, and it was a joy to make sure the first payment was immediately made to charity and helping others.

I’m not sure any of it truly fits in the category of provision to the poor, which is outlined in Torah’s principles surrounding shmitah, but it all seems to be interconnected — and I’m enjoying what it does to me and my family.

Another example of this is a thought that seems to be connected to canceling debts and forgiving others. I am having spaces and opportunities to hear from other perspectives and viewpoints that I have typically been quick to judge and reject. I am becoming more curious and empathetic. I am seeing this season as an opportunity to be more open-minded, not just open-handed. This gives me a more generous personality and I see this as being more Christ-like. I am seeing more patience, more invitation, and more inclusivity. I’m holding my judgments with more generosity and forgiveness and trying to have less of a “record of wrongs” about how certain ideas or perspectives have been wrong or destructive. That’s not to say I have left all critical thinking behind, but simply that I am letting a spirit of forgiveness temper the speed with which I jump to conclusions.

It’s the work of Sabbath — of stopping and ceasing and letting things be.