For me, Sabbatical has been a time of learning what it is to be loved by our Heavenly Father. He has been knocking down all the lies I've believed about His fatherhood as a result of of my human relationships.
I've had no trouble believing that for other people the love of God is unlimited and free, but having been savagely abused since I was very small, I have unconsciously believed that somehow His love for me is smaller, finite, with conditions attached.
When He called us away from our normal lives for a three-month sabbatical, I must admit that I was a little nervous. I wasn't sure what I would do for three whole months of apartness.
In the end, I would spend a lot of time reading soul-edifying books, sometimes at home, sometimes by a stream in a wooded area not far from our place. I engaged in therapy, had long conversations with Peter about the things I was learning, filled journals that it would usually take 8+ months to complete, and spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation.
God has been teaching me breathtaking lessons about what it means to be a father, and what it means to be a daughter.
At one point He said to me, “Come to Me—don't keep anything from Me—any of your struggles. Let Me correct your image. Don't hide it from Me. Don't lie to Me. If you do these things, you will be blameless before Me.”
And so I have. I've come to Him with my dark questions. I've struggled through the concepts of goodness and love and trust. And always, the pulse of His love has continued, consistently, intensely, throughout those three months and beyond.
At one point in my devotional time, I sensed that God was coming to meet me. As is my norm, I bowed down, face to the ground, in worship.
“No,” He said. “Today you are not My servant. Sit up. Today, you are My daughter.”
I sat up, gasping, as the glory of God filled the room.
He's shown me images of myself, hidden in the chamber of His heart. He has sung songs of love back to me. He has been achingly gentle and tender in his ministrations to my soul-wounds.
Perhaps the pinnacle came during our last two weeks of Sabbatical, at the end of August. In the third week of August, we went camping in Algonquin Park. During our trip, an adorable baby squirrel climbed up on my lap for a cuddle, without the offer of food. I came to understand what the phrase “painfully cute” means.
The following week, we enjoyed an all-expenses-paid retreat to Newfoundland with four other couples who are also cross-cultural workers. We stayed at a hotel in Gros Morne National Park, surrounded by the beauty of nature everywhere we looked.
It took me a while to become aware of what was happening in my psyche, but after a few days I realized that I had been withdrawing from God. I had been mollifying my conscience by having couple's devotions with Peter, but I hadn't personally been seeking Him out. Finally my desire for connection with Him would no longer be denied, and I went exploring.
I found a little spot by the ocean, right where the tail of a waterfall flowed into the sea. The water was noisy, which meant that I could do whatever I wanted without the risk of being overheard.
As I journaled there, I realized that following His gifts of the baby squirrel and this beautiful trip to Newfoundland, I had become convinced that if I approached Him, I wouldn't be able to find Him.
He had probably decided that He had already given me enough. I wouldn't be allowed to have Him too. So somewhere in my spirit, I had decided not to try. Because then I wouldn't have a broken heart when He withheld Himself from me. I had been trying desperately to hide the truth from myself—that I already had a broken heart, because I “knew” what He would do.
Through Scripture and journaling prayer and response, He begin to speak to me. I'd thought I had used up my quota of love from Him. But He showed me that there is no quota. There is no maximum.
“I am the Living Water,” He said. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water I shall give him shall become a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
I had always known that God loved me, and I had loved Him in return. But it was then that I finally understood that the infinity of God's love wasn't just for other people. It was for me as well.