It was exactly one year ago to the day that I returned from a three-month sabbatical. USG’s Board of Directors graciously afforded me the opportunity from late January until early April of 2021 to spend 10 weeks completely “off the grid” in Cartagena, Colombia. It was 10 full weeks of zero social media, zero work-related email, zero Netflix, etc. I turned off my phone completely, and the only communication I had with the “outside world” was through a weekly check-in with a coach, and my parents.
Below is my journal entry to God from April 8th, 2021 as I concluded that time of solitude chronicling some of the things I was most grateful for, along with my three biggest takeaways from the sabbatical.
“Father, I conclude my time in Colombia today GRATEFUL. This sabbatical has not gone like I expected in terms of 'productiveness', but it has been everything I have needed. I am grateful for:
How You have revealed Your goodness to me.
How You have revealed Your desire for Union with me.
How You have reiterated You are the fulfillment of the Scriptures to me
Revealing my identity as CHOSEN. Chosen by You. Not by any merit, but Chosen nonetheless. Chosen to have the makeup that I have. Chosen to start MOAM and now lead USG. Chosen to be Simon's uncle. Chosen to be Jenny, Liz, and Nick's brother. Chosen to have a passion for Significance. Chosen to be single at 31 so that I might experience 2.5 months of complete solitude with You. Chosen to fear You, and greatly desire to honor You. Chosen. Chosen. Chosen.
The incredible experiences You have provided me these last 10 years of my life. 10 years ago, I could have never predicted or dreamed that You would lead me into all that You have led me into.. Virginia Tech, Auburn, Starting MOAM, leading me to Grace Church, incredible mentors. I cannot even imagine what You are capable of leading me into in these next ten years.
The friends and family I have awaiting me back in Minnesota.
The reality that there is nothing I need to earn or prove here on earth. I am completely free and eternally secure. There is literally nothing that can happen to me here on earth outside of Your perfect plan. Even if I am killed suddenly, it means I get to be with You. I have the privilege of giving up that which I cannot keep for that which I cannot lose.
The joy and peace Your Spirit continues to renew inside of me. Even though I was definitely burnt out going into this sabbatical, I never lost joy and peace in the work You have continued to allow me to do. You have given me so much victory over depression & anxiety.
The ways You continuously draw me near to You.
The hope I have to find a spouse (UPDATE: met my now fiancé’ approximately two months later).
The growing desire I am experiencing to read Your Word and learn more about You.
The good health of my loved ones.
The top three faith items I will takeaway from my time in Colombia are:
1) Your goodness. I've long found it easy to worship You because of Your 'grandness', in recent years especially, but You have revealed the neglect I've often had towards Your goodness. Subconsciously, I would admit my notion of You would frequently be that You are disappointed in me, and that I am in debt to You. The following items helped me truly comprehend in an entirely new way how Your goodness has always been true.
The way You describe Your own character in Ex. 34:6 "The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful & gracious, slow to anger, & abounding in steadfast love, and faithfulness,"
Seeing how You so often respond to the cries of Your people with such patience, gentleness, and compassion. Especially in Nu. 11 & 14:20, 2 Kgs. 20.
The revealing of Yourself as 'gentle & lowly' in Mt 11:29
Slow to anger. Patient. Gentle. Lowly. Words I have long been too slow to equate with You.
2) How much You desire UNION with me. I was made for Union with You. To walk step by step with Your Spirit that is IN ME. Mk 16:20 - as the disciples went out, "..the Lord worked WITH them.." Your invite in Mt 11:28-30 - .."take my yoke upon you.." hitch yourself to ME & walk with ME!
3) You are the fulfillment of the Scriptures! I have enjoyed the opportunity to press into really deep questions and challenges like how and why would a good God allow hell to exist, how does Jesus dying equal salvation for me, etc. I have found answers for many items, but ultimately my finite mind will never fully comprehend how, and why God does all that He does. But in Your grace, You have at least made extremely clear in the Bible that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is the fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus accomplished exactly what You said must, and will happen. And the fulfillment of these Scriptures equaling salvation is something Jesus Himself makes crystal clear (esp in Lk 24:44-49).