Editor's Note: Today's post is the first in mini-series from Dr. Dale Schultz (@drdaleschultz) about his Spiritual Renewal Leave. He serves as Senior Pastor of St. Philip's United Methodist Church (Central Texas Conference) and is a faithful prayer participant with @Virtual_Abbey. Check his personal blog!
Dear Virtual Abbey friends,
Take it from me, you might need a Spiritual Renewal Leave if:
- Your prayers stumble. This is not about words tripping out of your mouth and falling all over your BCP, daily missal, breviary, church-provided prayer list, or devotional device. It’s about an intuitive sense that your life’s spiritual rhythm has made prayers more perfunctory than present with the Holy;
- Your first inclination is to be more reactive than responsive. For example, when someone facing a significant challenge expects sensitive encouragement, you really want to say, “Get over it” or, “Grow up”;
- Tolerance for your own church, judicatory, diocesan, or whatever you call the leadership to whom you are least somewhat spiritually accountable wanes more than waxes. You find yourself them as bumbling bureaucrats rather than well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ;
- Subtle, yet nonetheless supernatural signs and wonders daily surround you with God’s love, grace, and mercy and yet you still wonder, “What’s for dessert?”
- A mentor (or Christian friend) asks if you’re really listening to your private conversations about your relationship with Christ and the Church.
Perhaps you've read the above as something that resonates with your own experience. Maybe you’re relieved that, at this moment, no one is asking, “How is it with your soul?” For me, these factors came together over time as a much-needed warning about my spiritual health. All too real; personal.
Having served more than half my adult life in full-time pastoral ministry, I’m thankful for realizing I needed something like a spiritual (pardon, please, the graphic metaphor) enema. I’m grateful to serve in a denomination that not only allows, but encourages, clergy to tend to their own soul-care.
I’m also grateful for Church leadership who unanimously encouraged a sabbatical, and commissioning me with blessings in my Leave-taking. (As for our Staff Team, they are a remarkably gifted group, who I’m sure tolerated me more than I can imagine.)
If you’re experiencing any (or combination) of the symptoms above, then your soul may need renewal, too. Please let me encourage you to be confident enough in Christ to engage in a soul-check. And if you discover you've been living your life of prayer and service on near-empty, then I welcome your very good company.