Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer Sabbatical

For the past three and a half weeks, Ben and I have been on sabbatical leave. Much like missionaries who have been out in the field for awhile and come home to rest and renew, we've felt the need for a respite from our work. For the past week or so, we've been resting in Williamstown, MA out in the Berkshires. Honestly, we haven't done much but sleep, read, eat, and sleep some more...which has been great and sorely needed.

Our culture doesn't do rest well - if we do rest at all. We live in this world of full appointment books, constant to-do lists, always running from one thing to the next.  Rest happens when you are too burned out or tired to meaningfully contribute anymore, and taking time to disengage from the busyness of life is oftentimes looked at as a luxury that few can afford to take....there's just always so much more to do.

I've kept a sabbath day for about the past 10 years. One day each week where I do not work. I don't pick up the phone, I intentionally engage in activities that I enjoy doing, I spend some time reading or reflecting -- anything but work. Jesus said it was important to keep the sabbath...and I see why. Everyone needs a time - weekly - that work stops, where sacred space is created, where we disengage from all the doing that distracts us from ourselves and remember what it means to be human.

I remember how impossible one full day seemed when I first picked up the practice. I was in college with a fairly busy schede; between rehearsals, classes, and schoolwork, I was sure that I would never be able to find a full day where I could simply do I whatever I wanted. But I had been challenged to pick up the practice, so I did. Sunday ended up being a particularly convenient day at that point in my life, so I decided that I would not do any classwork on Sunday. I attended worship, was in a Bible Study in the evening, and I watched football. It meant that I had to manage my time more efficiently during the week - but it was wonderful to be able to set all the work aside for a day to connect with people from my faith community and engage in the things that gave me life and energy.

I kept the practice up through seminary and as I entered into professional ministry. Monday is the day when both my husband and I do no work at all. We set aside the busy-ness of our lives and do the things that help us reconnect with ourselves (and help us become a bit more human again).

Just as we need this weekly rhythm, we need seasonal, yearly, and other cycles of rest and renewal. 3dm teaches that we as human beings were created to rest and work...but we aren't created to rest from our work, but work out of our rest. Our work comes out of our abiding in Jesus, out of being sure in our identity as God's beloved. When we fail to work out of that core of our being, our work is fruitless and we get burned out.

So even though my husband and I keep this weekly rhythm of rest and work going, we felt that we needed this time of greater rest to reconnect with ourselves in a way that will lead to greater fruitfulness in the future. So far, the journey has been about renewing ourselves physically -- lots of rest and regular exercise. As we move past the halfway point, I'm getting ready to start doing some more things with our time. We have our seventh anniversary next week, we scheduled some Tanglewood visits (including seeing Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!), and visits to art museums in the area. I have a few craft projects in my bag (and a few more books to read).

I am looking forward to a few more weeks of rest and renewal!