This is part three of a four part series on a Restorative Sabbatical. Please read the series – and be encouraged.
If you are wondering why it is taking me so long to tell this story, it is because this Restorative Sabbatical has had such a profound impact on Russ, on our marriage, and ultimately on our family. The kids may not realize it yet…but their Dad is being renewed. The Daddy they’ve known and loved forever, the one who teases, and hugs, and reads stories, is no longer a grumpy shadow of himself. God is restoring him to us, and I am a very happy wife.
One night, in the midst of this healing journey, Russ was holding me tight and I started crying big, gulping sobs out of pure relief. He asked me what was wrong, and like a four year old, all I could answer was, “I was so scared.” I was looking toward our future with fear in my heart. What would I do if the man who held us all together was never going to be happy again?
So, stick with me a little longer and maybe there will be something here that will be helpful to you.
After Russ’ first attempt at a “Sabbatical Day”, we knew what didn’t work – namely attempting to combine work and rest – but we had some ideas of what might be helpful.
First, Russ decided to take a complete 24 hour break. Because he loves me and knows I’m not even close to being superwoman, he opted to start his break after tucking the little kids in on Wednesday night. We did not tell them he was leaving, since that could invoke chaos, and when the kids woke up the next morning, I just told them he was already gone for the day.
Second, he chose complete solitude.
Third, he found a place to go that cost us nothing. Russ’ parents have a summer home an hour north of us. Each fall, when they head to Mexico, the water and power are turned off, but that didn’t deter Russ. It was less rustic than camping, and he had a wood stove to sleep near.
Fourth, He packed good food, warm clothes, a down sleeping bag, Bible, an iPod loaded with music and sermons, his laptop (not for work), and a book.
He began his “Restorative Sabbatical” with a good night of sleep. It had been a very long time since he had slept with no responsibility for anyone but himself. You know what I mean by that! It is hard to rest deeply when any moment a child may fall out of bed, cry, or need to be comforted from a bad dream.
The next day he spent in prayer, at rest, reading, thinking, and contemplating the life God has given us. He needed to grieve the loss of the life and family we once had and embrace this new life. It is not what we imagined, but it is beautiful in its own way.
At times he went outside to work on a project for his father or take a walk by the river.
Sometime in the morning he watched John Piper’s message from the Orphan Summit, the message that was extremely meaningful to me. It was so powerful for him that he watched it again that afternoon. (He has now watched or listened to it six times.) I urge anybody who is involved in orphan care, and/or adopting children from the “hard places”, to watch it – it will be 32 min. of your life well spent.
He came home late Thursday evening. After my disappointment the previous week, I anxiously watched to see his expression as he came through the door. He came in with a smile and eyes that were filled with love for me. I saw a glimpse of my husband, the man I’ve loved since I was seventeen, and he was more fully himself than he had been in a long time.
The following week he repeated this same pattern with more benefit to both of us. He filled his mind with God’s word, and with reading that encouraged him. He spent time outdoors enjoying the solitude. He watched John Piper again and listened to a sermon on adoption. That Thursday when he returned he seemed energized. His hope was being renewed and I could literally see it.
Many things in this life are utterly opposite from the way they seem. And here is one of them. When the children of God—the followers of Jesus—are permitted to suffer in the path of love, the path of orphan care, God is giving a gift to the world. John Piper
[Read part 4 here.]
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