What I’ve Learned on Sabbatical So Far
- It takes about three weeks of sabbatical to actually be on sabbatical. I’d read about this, but didn’t know how true it was. The first week of my respite time was spent catching up on all the things I let slide while preparing for sabbatical and getting through Holy Week. The second week was spent trying to shake that feeling that I needed to work on my sermon for Sunday, and the third week was spent letting go of the nagging feeling that I had forgotten to leave instructions about how to do something or neglected to make sure that someone was taking care of something. Basically, it took me about three weeks to settle into the truth that there are a bunch of good and faithful servants making ministry happen in my absence and that God shows up whether I do or not.
- The relentless return of Sunday morning is exhausting. You don’t realize how much time and energy goes in to preparing and executing a worship service every Sunday morning until you get an extended break from it. Even on a week-long vacation, I am still thinking about what I will preach my next Sunday in the pulpit. I had trouble falling asleep at the beginning of my sabbatical, because what I generally think about when I close my eyes is my next sermon. I had to retrain my brain to use all the extra space and energy it has now.
- I really don’t like being disciplined (this is not a new revelation), but I like the results of discipline. I don’t like making to-do lists and adhering to a schedule and making sure that I do something (exercise and pray) every day. But I do like feeling healthier and more peaceful. I’ve been reading The Power of Habit and am hoping that I can cultivate habits during sabbatical that will carry over to my return to ministry.
- Change takes time. I know that’s a no-brainer, but we (I) like to imagine that if we just put in the time and effort, change will come quickly, and its effects will be almost instantly recognizable. I’ve been going to the gym five days a week and have drastically changed my eating habits. I’ve been getting more rest and drinking lots of water. While I feel better and definitely have more muscle tone, I don’t look all that different. I still have to cover up the bags under my eyes and suck in my stomach to zip up my jeans. Somehow, I thought by now I would look like magazine-worthy before and after picture of what a little time off and some intense and intentional self-care can do for a person. But, so far, there is no visible outward sign of an inward truth.
- It is hard to let yourself do nothing. I understand why people go away for sabbaticals. My family situation does not allow me to escape to Iona or some remote cabin in the woods for a month at a time, so most of my sabbatical is spent at home…where there’s always laundry to do or dishes to wash or errands to run or a kid that needs a ride to somewhere. So I use that discipline I’m working on cultivating to “do” nothing (aka read, pray, rest) even when there is plenty around me to be done.
- It is much easier to do what you said you would do on sabbatical when you know that a church full of people made the decision to take on responsibilities and ministries in order for you to have this time. A generously given gift is not something to squander.
- My church does not have to worry me not returning at the end of my sabbatical. As exhausting as ministry can be, I miss my people. I don’t like that all our kids are growing up without me. As exhausting as it can be, I enjoy the privilege of sharing the Word of God in ways that people can (hopefully!) hear. And in a world that is increasingly filled with fearful people who are looking for ways to exclude “the other,” we need more places like First Pres Argenta filled with faithful people who are always looking for ways to include all others. Who would want to miss out on being a part of that?