When my sabbatical first began, I had a few days before we went to Boston. I was waiting for the next thing. When we got back from Boston, I had a few days before I went to Ghost Ranch. I was waiting for the next thing. Today I am home and there is no next thing – there’s nothing on the calendar. Sure, there may be a couple day trips or a visit with my family in Tennessee, but there isn’t a Big Thing that I’m waiting to arrive. In fact, I think this sunny, somewhat quiet, momentarily peaceful moment is the next Big Thing. It doesn’t feel big though. It feels really small and uncertain, and honestly, it feels scary.
In ministry I find myself living today and 6 months from today. I have to answer today’s emails and put together plans for this week’s program, but at the same time I have to publicize the next Big Thing which is often months away. There is always a Big Thing in the future – something pulling me forward. Yes, in just a few months I’ll be back at that job, so in a sense, that is a Big Thing. But, I’m not letting myself think about that quite yet. I’m still here in these three months, in my sabbatical, in my time of rest.
There’s no Big Thing pulling me anywhere – maybe that’s where my unsettling is coming from. I’m used to being pulled, sometimes pushed, and right now there is neither. And I’m scared. Who I am without a big event to pull off successfully? Who I am without a necessary to-do list? Who I am without a race to train for or a a youth group to lead?
In her Guidepost to Wholehearted Living, Brené Brown writes about letting go of “exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity of self-worth” and cultivating “play and rest.” Sigh. This sabbatical thing is going to be harder than I thought. You wouldn’t think 3 months off would be a challenge, but here I am on the Real Day One and I want to cry, so I probably will. I thought this would feel spiritual all the time. I thought I would be enlightened and floating…not so, my friends. I feel heavy and lost. Shedding my own expectations, living in the present, allowing myself to rest and not “achieve” – this is hard work. It’s tiring – much more tiring than plugging along with the usual routine. My body is beginning to feel the weight of my mind, my soul. Everything from the last 18 months is beginning to catch up with me – play and rest, as much as I may fight it, are exactly what I need.
I read a quote about sabbath in my planner this morning – perfect timing, as usual:
There are no guarantees that if we keep the Sabbath we will be successful. But honoring the Sabbath (and not overworking the other six days) will give us an opportunity to grow in our trust of God and experience [God’s] faithfulness. If we take the time to honor the Sabbath we may actually find that we are less productive than we were before…God’s provision for us as we honor [God’s] rhythms may be the grace to accept being passed over for a promotion, while gaining a greater sense of fulfillment as we do our work more aware of God, ourselves, and the people around us. – Ken Shigematsu
There’s a reason they’re called growing pains. Growing hurts. So, again and again I find myself repeating the words my mom says to me: Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with yourself, Anne. You have arrived – the Real Day One – right on time, right where you need to be.