On June 1, I began a three-month sabbatical. This is new for me. I’ve taken vacations before, but the last time I was off for a significant period of time was when I was a teenager some 25 years ago.
Although the entire three-month period has a serious rest component to it, I really wanted to focus on rest the first month.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
It’s hard to rest. You would think that it would be easy to pause and to enter into an extended period of rest. It isn’t. I found myself fidgety and restless for the first few weeks. It’s probably because I hadn’t found a rhythm for my sabbatical yet – but I wonder if the real reason is that resting is learned behavior. We’re much more used to doing than we are to pausing and allowing ourselves to be refreshed. Temperament plays a role as well.
I was tired, but not the way I thought. I thought I was physically tired. I wasn’t. I don’t think I’ve slept more in the past month than I do normally. But I’ve discovered that I’m weary in ways that I hadn’t even grasped before the sabbatical began.
An example of this is that I’m an introvert who can masquerade as an extrovert. Steve McCoy reflected on this in his own life recently. I’ve read three books in the past couple of weeks that have helped me understand the toll that this takes, as well as some of the adjustments I need to make so that I’m serving as myself, not as someone else.
This is an example of two or three areas that have been out of whack in my life, and have caused me to be drained in ways I hadn’t recognized up until now.
Not everyone understands. No surprise here: not everyone gets why pastors need sabbaticals. I’m not sure I completely get it either, but I recognize that they do. This is a tough one, because it’s hard to explain the need for a sabbatical without sounding self-serving. I’m grateful for organizations like the Louisville Institute that help explain the benefits, not only for the pastor but for the church as well.
I love being part of a church without being the pastor. I can’t tell you how much Sundays have meant to us. We’ve plugged in at a good church for the summer, one that feels like our church home away from home. It’s been good for me, and I know it’s meant a lot to Charlene as well. I’m disappointed that some of our travel plans mean that we’ll be away from this church in the coming weeks. It’s definitely been a highlight.
I’m really grateful for this opportunity, and grateful for what God’s been doing in our lives this past month.