On returning from Sabbatical
(spoiler: this post was originally written for the upcoming Palms Presbyterian Church newsletter)
It feels like just yesterday that I was writing to thank you all for the opportunity of having a sabbatical time for study, reading, writing, and some rest time with family. My wife – veteran of three maternity leaves – warned me up front that I wasn’t going to get nearly as much done as I thought I would. I was not going to be convinced and still had an ambitious outlook of all the projects I was going to complete during my time off from coming into the office.
If I maintained the outlook that I started my sabbatical with I would probably be saying that I failed my sabbatical goals. I checked very few things off my list. But that is not at all how I view these last three months now, because I believe what I learned most during this time was to experience the blessing of non-accomplishment. Sabbatical is large scale practice of Sabbath. And like Sabbath we very easily turn it into something we have to do – something we have to accomplish. We fill our Sabbath up with all sorts of acts of righteousness, at least I did – or tried to do so. Only one thing of course is sacrificed in that moment: actual Sabbath!
Our lives are filled with temptations to view rest as a luxury we cannot afford. Our heads are filled with voices that make us feel guilty if think of ourselves first. (And for many of us that guilt extends to thinking and taking care of ourselves at all!) The gift my family and Palms gave me this summer was the opportunity to experience Sabbath, rather than to do it! The gift I received was setting aside the need to accomplish and achieve a list of projects – as if my life was about proving my worth. My sabbatical was a lesson in living in the moment with those I loved and soaking it up day after day. I accomplished nothing – and it was very good.
Now my sabbatical is asking me: what of this learning can I carry back into my daily routine? How can I continue to experience the blessings of non-accomplishment? What ways will I find to balance daily rest with the need to do my job and fulfill my vocation? And how do I rescript my life to tune out the worldly voice that nags at me to believe that my self-worth lies in what I produce and achieve?
I look forward to the many answers (and further questions) we will discover together!
Much love and thanks to you all, Andrew