Three unexpected benefits from my 5-week Sabbatical, # 2.
I love my wife like no other human. She is the most beautiful woman I know and she makes me laugh harder than anyone on the planet. Despite how much I love being with her, one of the things we haven't always done well together is travel. The main reason is this: I am a sightseer and she is a vacationer. That's why including a 15 day trip to Italy together as part of my Sabbatical was a bit of a risk for us.
We have never been away, just the two of us, for longer than 5 days. When we do get away, she often starts getting home sick right when I start to mentally arrive. She struggles to sleep in a strange bed while I drool myself into a coma anywhere I park myself. We even like different kinds of food. So imagine my surprise when this 2nd benefit of my Sabbatical immerged:
#2 A second honeymoon with my wife that has not ended yet.
Now the first 15 days of my Sabbatical were alone with Michelle in a foreign country she had never been to, but I had: Italy. We have been back since May 30th and even thought it is almost August now, the honeymoon has not wore off. We are still looking at each other with loving eyes, interrupting our work days with longing texts, and are serving each other in heartfelt ways. I inadvertently did 2 things that helped create this experience for us:
1. I made her "The Queen" of this trip. I even told her she would be. My having been to Italy before gave her a sense of security that I knew where we were, and where we were going (even when I didn't). It allowed me to put her first when it came to sight-seeing since I had seen many of the things we were going to see before. Because Michelle is an incredible photographer, I made a decision in advance that when she gasped at a vista every 5 feet we walked together and wanted to take a picture, I would wait and celebrate what she was looking at rather than drive her like cattle to market like I usually did. She took all the photos in these posts. The one of our feet in the gondola is my favorite one because it captures our experience of Italy together perfectly. We are making a photo book of them. I asked her constantly, "Where do you want to go?", even to the point of skipping two locations in Tuscany we had planned to see so we could enjoy the space that allowed her to take things in as an artist. Which leads to another way I planned the trip that worked out better than I even thought it would...
2. I paced it with her in mind. I decided that 15 days covering Rome, Tuscany, Lake Como and Venice would require one day of sight-seeing every other day and one day of nothing so we could simply "vacation". That back and forth gave us the margin to be fully into what we did and even allowed us some spontaneity. She also surprised me by actually wanting me to be the tour guide that I love to be when it comes to places of historical and biblical significance. We went on NO TOURS. It was all me, having studied these places and loved them for decades. It felt really good to be her "go to" as we saw each incredible sight. Best of all: Instead of becoming homesick, Michelle wished we could just stay one more day and cannot stop talking about when we can do it again.
This 2nd honeymoon brought me two takeaways that I am still gleaning from:
Takeaway 1: The power of a day with no purpose. Now, I get why God was so serious about no form of work taking place on the Sabbath. My day off has traditionally been a chore day, wishing I had some down time. I mostly felt a longing for down time or guilty for not having it since there was always so much to catch up on. Now I am actually planning to work 2 full days on the weekend beginning this Fall so I can have 2 full days off: one for chores and one for nothing. I have never been a guy who could do nothing. Now I can't wait for it!. What it does for my soul is something I can no longer do without.
Takeaway 2: The value of being in synch with my spouse. We love coming home to each other now. We haven't always been that way. I have learned what kind of person I am when I am in synch with her versus when I am out of synch. I am a more patient person now and by the way, I like being that person. Yep-I like myself better when I am the kind of guy my wife likes to be with.
So what does this benefit of my Sabbatical have to do being a Sherpa?
As Sherpas, we help people make the climb to a more full connection with God and the family he is adding them to. We call that "Building Community" at my church. A one sentence job description Andy Stanley might appreciate is this: We connect guests to our church. Here's what I learned about connecting guests from the 15 days of my Sabbatical I spent alone with my wife:
1. Treat them like royalty. We talk about not pointing to the kids area or restrooms when guests ask where they are but walking them there instead. Now I know more fully why. It treats them like the VIPs they are. If we and our teams tell ourselves before we arrive at church that some very important people are coming today and we are in charge of their experience, that sets the stage for showing them God's incredible heart and hospitality. When I am not sure exactly how, I just think of how badly I wanted Michelle to have the trip of a lifetime...and I just do that for guests.
2. Discover the power of synch. Do you think it's a plus if we become experts at building community with our most important human relationship? I do. I have noticed a distinct increase in my capacity to be patient, tuned in, and enjoy guests since my 2nd honeymoon with Michelle. It has crossed over into what I do as a Connector at church. Being in synch with my spouse has spilled over into my relationship with God too, something I will unpack in my next post.
When it comes to an extended 2nd honeymoon, I'm telling you, try it. Get away with your spouse, just the two of you, for a couple weeks. If you have kids, just take a week and leave your kids with someone you trust and that they love to be with. We had a church full of those people when my kids were little so taking advantage of that was awesome, though it was more of a challenge for us initially than it was for those hospitable families and even for our kids. They built relationships with these couples that have made them extended family as my children grew up. These people attended their birthday parties. Their names would come up when we told stories at night, laughing and reminiscing about good times in their lives. It's all good, if you let it happen. Even make it happen.
What I took home from my Sabbatical was a 2nd honeymoon with my wife that hasn't ended. If you missed the #1 benefit from my Sabbatical, click here. If you want to know how we pulled off this trip of a lifetime on a shoestring budget, look out for Michelle & I's travel vlog coming up soon. If you want to know what the 3rd benefit of my Sabbatical was, stay tuned...
- In what ways has your relationship with your spouse affected your capacity as a Connector and your stamina as a Sherpa? Be specific, listing links to attitudes and aptitudes like patience and presence as well as some specific examples that are both positive and negative.
- Is the pace at which you serve guests at your church the right one for making them feel like VIPs? Is it the right one for you to feel like you are the best you can be?
- Do you feel in synch with your spouse in this season of life? When could you take an extended break with just them to get back in synch? What are 3 obstacles and 3 ways of overcoming them that could make this possible for you both?