Note: This is the third installment of my 2019 Sabbatical series. You can read part one here and part two here. This reflection rises out of the wonderful counseling we received at Marble Retreat Center (marbleretreat.org).
During one of the daily group sessions, we were discussing my family of origin, which was that of a military home with a strong sense of duty to country. This sense of responsibility, leaning toward over-responsibility, carried over to my career in law enforcement. With the transition to ministry in 2008, this sense of responsibility again showed up, but into a very different context. This sense of duty led to a desire to do more work and less self-care, justifying it as a “sacrifice for the ministry”.
By God’s divine design, one of the other guests at Marble also came from a military family background and came to the same place of struggling with duty and responsibility in ministry. As the counselors guided us through a time of self-discovery, we both came to the realization we had been operating outside of an abiding relationship with Christ and had defaulted to operating in our own strength.
Then the other guest asked a question that nailed it:
Do we serve from a dutiful place
or a Beautiful place?
This simple question sucked all the air out of the room.
As we continued to process through the week, this dutiful/beautiful contrast came up again and again, even gaining a prominent place on the traditional memory stone each group is asked to leave at Marble. This question emphasizes the need to stay in an abiding relationship with Jesus as seen in John 15:4:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
As an amateur grower of roses, I can tell you that a disconnected branch not only does not bear fruit, but it quickly dies. And, as with roses, the relationship with Christ needs to be tended and maintained through daily times of prayer and attention. My roses would not last one summer without my care, and neither will my relationship with Christ. At the end of our time at Marble, we had learned some new skills and rhythms that helped us all move from dutiful to Beautiful!
If you have any questions, comments, or need some help in making this shift yourself, feel free to let me know.
Kelley Johnson, NCD Pastoral Care