Originally Written: May 2017
I’ve been working out every day. I remodeled the kitchen, dining room, living room and entry of our house. I have read 19 books and read through the whole New Testament. I could keep listing all that I have done, but I will spare you the details. It is amazing how busy one can be on sabbatical!
I recently spent three days alone on a retreat without my cell phone. I wanted to reflect on what God is teaching me. Two ideas emerged. First, I realized how easily I get sucked into doing things. When people ask, I’m tempted to tell them all I have accomplished. Fortunately, sabbatical hasn’t been all busyness; I have been able to slow down. For example, I have been at the bus stop nearly every day when the kids get home from school. My children don’t care what I have accomplished. They just want to see me. Similarly, my heavenly father also wants to see me. He cares about what I do, but he wants it to be an overflow from my time spent with him.
Secondly, I realized that I love my job and I am excited to get back to work. I had a lot of fun remodeling my house, but I realized that it does not provide the same reward as my job. In fact, it reminds of my calling to InterVarsity. 15 years ago I was graduating from college. I loved computers, but I would rather help someone encounter God’s amazing love for them. That is what brings me great joy.
Shortly before my last grandparent passed away, my siblings and I all traveled to see him.
It feels like death and suffering has surrounded me. Last spring, I watched my friends lose their 4-month-old. This spring it has intensified. A former student at UMD died on January 22, 2017 after a 15 month battle with colon cancer. My wife’s great aunt passed away on January 23, 2017. My last living grandparent passed away January 27, 2017. He was 95 years old. A pastor of the church that I attended in Duluth died unexpectedly at age 52 in a house fire. Another friend is facing terminal cancer. He has 6 kids. Through it all, I have been studying theology.
What does God have to say about death and suffering? Quite a lot. Jesus wept when Lazarus died. Thus, we can too. He talked about his own death and how he would suffer. Thus, he has experienced it himself. And in John 16:33 he said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In his book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, Rob Moll writes “Good deaths, even the best of them, are terrible because they separate.” He also says that for the Christian “this life is only the prelude to an eternal life with Christ.”
In between studying and writing papers, I have been reflecting on my work. While reading part of Moll’s book, I thought about how my job prepares students for death. I help students meet Jesus. I help them learn to follow God in their daily lives. Because a life well lived for God is the best preparation for death.
Thanks for helping me prepare students for death.
On July 1, 2017 I will become the Assistant Director for Leadership Training. This is a new national position and I will be responsible for equipping Area Directors around the country. This past fall, I had the chance to tell my colleagues why I thought the Area Director position was the most important role in InterVarsity. If you want, you can read my notes. Now, I am privileged to be responsible for training this crucial role for all of InterVarsity.
In many ways, it feels like this is something I have already been doing in my region. For example, when my family moved to Duluth, Jacob Fisher also moved to Duluth to attend UMD. We started a freshmen small group that grew and multiplied into several more groups. For the past four years, Jacob has been equipping and empowering students. This year, Jacob will replace me as the new Area Director for the NORTH area. I also developed Luke Olson who became the Area Director for Milwaukee last year.
As an Area Director, I empowered and equipped campus staff to reach the 100,000 students in the NORTH area. As a trainer for Area Directors, I hope to empower and equip people to reach the 21 million college students in the United States.