By Patti Johnson

Patti has been volunteering with Care for Pastors with The Confidante for Pastors’ Wives for 7 years after she and her husband received counsel from Care for Pastors as a way to give back to the ministry. She joined the Care for Pastors staff in January 2020. Patti is one of the administrators of The Confidante Private Facebook group for pastors' wives and is a regular contributor to weekly blogs. She loves to use her gifts and abilities to support the needs of the ministry. Patti has been married to her Pastor husband Keith for 36 years. They have 3 adult children who all to their delight live in Florida.

    I Plan and God Directs (Part 1)

    Monday, September 19, 2022

    Several years ago, I was facing an elective but necessary major surgery. At the beginning of the planning process with my doctor, she told me that she would not schedule the surgery date until I cleared 8 weeks of recovery time on my calendar. At that point I realized that while confirmation of getting the surgery was in my hands, the process was directed by my doctor. I took this as an example to follow going forward in this process of surgery and recovery and many more life experiences to come.

    The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

    I ended up doing the physical planning for my recovery time, but I also inquired of God how He was going to direct the process and what response He wanted from me. I had a delightful time of discovery in some Truths through scripture that enabled me to relax and not worry through the surgery preparation or process and was fully prepared to submit to His direction in my recovery time.

    It was a perfect blending of the physical and spiritual with God out front and me following. The whole process had me fully engaged and fully trusting in God to direct all my steps.

    Had my doctor not put that extra step of planning my recovery process I may have missed complete and healthy healing and just “gotten through it”. The results may or may not have been identical, but it was a much richer outcome when I allowed God to enter into the direction of my steps.

    I find myself once again at the doorstep of “I plan” and “God directs”. In just a few short weeks, my husband/pastor will embark on his first-ever time of sabbatical. While there is some planning of the time, I am most mindful to watch how God is directing our steps. It is almost like the elective but necessary surgery scenario all over again. Once the church board granted the time of sabbatical to my husband, the dates were set, just as the surgery date was set for me.

    But now we are in the process of watching for God to direct steps of the “recovery.”

    I had a friend sincerely ask me what is involved in a sabbatical. She thought like many do, that it is an extended vacation, a time to travel, or to accomplish something on the “educational bucket list.” While many of these things are practiced by some on their sabbaticals, I knew we were being directed to look at what God calls a sabbatical. So, I inquired of God to direct my words as I answered her sincere question. Here is what God directed me to tell her.

    “That’s a hard question to answer simply, but a biblical sabbatical is different than any other types of time away from work. It’s not an extended vacation and it’s not meant to accomplish or produce anything. It is in essence giving your body, mind and spirit an extended time of rest from the unique responsibilities of a pastor/teacher/shepherd. One of the most common challenges that pastors face is called Empathy Fatigue. Much like God giving the land a sabbatical on the 7th year to replenish what it has given, a sabbatical for a pastor is to replenish what has been given out and not returned.”

    So, you see, “I plan, God directs.” Now we have a date for the “surgery” and a direction for “recovery.”

    The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

    I am delighted to know that God is so intimately involved in every aspect of our lives that I can fully trust Him with it all. I suspect I will journal through this recovery phase called a sabbatical just as I did through my physical recovery from my surgery. I did not want to miss God’s directing hand through it, nor do I want to miss His hand through this.

    I suspect I will be returning here with a sampling of my journaling through the recovery period we call a sabbatical.

    If you are in ministry and have never thought of, asked for, inquired of or thought it could happen, plan a time of “recovery” and allow God to direct your steps.

    The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

    Help us continue providing resources of care for pastors and their families.

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