Two thirds of my sabbatical are over with one third to go. Thus far it's been taken up with types work which I could not have completed were I in the saddle of active ministry. Ironically, I say 'thank you' for giving me the opportunity for such work. God made us to give ourselves to good, worshipful, redemptive work - so its quite appropriate that I am not resting the entire three months off. What kind of work have I done?
1. Work on my Doctor of Ministry degree. Last Friday I finished my last paper due for my July classes. Yeah!
2. Work around the house. Things like gardening. Cleaning out closets, drawers and over-stuffed files which one always thinks of doing but never has time to do. Seeking to be a daily help around the house to my dear wife.
3. Currently we're camped out on a friend's farm helping out with harvest. What a blessing to have time for that!
4. Spending three weeks dismantling, sanding, sawing, scraping, rebuilding and painting our fence. One never knows how large their fence is until such a task is necessary. One also never knows how offensive one's fence was to one's neighbors until they begin to stop by (many of them!) to comment on how happy they are with the new fence.
Let me make a further comment about our fence project. I was dreading it. I've undertaken enough house projects over the years to know that most take twice as long as anticipated. The fence was no exception. By mid-August visions of paint scrapings, rusty screws and the smell of latex paint were troubling my dreams. I never wanted to see another fence board again! But I did not hire out the job for one key reason: my son.
Carson (my 8 year old) has always been my right-hand 'man' with house projects, and earlier this summer, after spying a pair of kid-sized cowboy boots which were out of his price range, I agreed to pay him to help me with the fence. In the first week alone he logged more than thirty hours of scraping, sawing and screwing and had more than enough money for his boots. Therefore, he was glad to be working on the fence.
My epiphany of happiness came one dewy morning while we were scraping old fence boards together on the same pair of saw-horses. With white paint chips flying, we found ourselves talking about life - our dreams, failures, relationships, work and the gospel of God's grace. Unlike the regular Bible lessons Carson's experienced all his life during our evening meals and bed-time rituals, this context was different. As two 'men' working together, the sometimes artificial nature of parental discipleship was supplanted by something wonderfully natural - working together - which had a way of opening our hearts to each other to create the context for father-son discipleship God intends.
In a few weeks I'm going to begin a sermon series on Proverbs. My fence project with Carson taught me poignantly that the father to son instruction of that great book of the Bible isn't optimally executed from the pulpit, classroom or even dining room table. Godly wisdom from man to man is best imparted while working together. Ladies, you may do your discipleship best over tea, but for us men we'll take a saw, boards and some paint with our Bibles. I just think of the rich conversations I would have missed with my son had I hired out the job.