Unplugged to Recharge?
But people are wired differently than their devices, aren't they? For you and I to truly recharge, we have to unplug, disconnect, disengage. We must find ways to turn down the juice, turn off the power, and find genuine rest and renewal.
This Monday I will begin a two-month sabbatical, laying down my daily duties and responsibilities for a season of Sabbath and renewal. I am grateful to serve a church that understands and values pastoral ministry and provides for a seven-year cycle of sabbatical time for family enrichment, spiritual renewal and professional growth.
I have served as a pastor since January, 1980, and this will be the first time I have stepped away from my pastoral responsibilities for more than a week or two of vacation. I don't believe I have ever missed more than two Sundays in the pulpit, and even that has been rare. So this is a new experience for me. I'm not sure how it will feel to disengage and disconnect for an extended time.
Honestly, I don't feel some terrible burden or desperate need to get away. I will confess that there have been a few times in these thirty-nine years when I would have begged for a sabbatical, when I felt drained and discouraged and defeated. But not now, not here.
And yet, maybe this is God's timing after all. I'm fifty-nine years old and I've served here at Memorial for seven years. I don't pretend to know the future, but I hope to have many more years of fruitful, productive ministry ahead. I don't want to coast into retirement. I don't want to take it easy or play it safe. I want the rest of my ministry to be the best of my ministry.
You've noticed how some coaches sit their starters on the bench for a few minutes in the second half to catch their breath and be well-rested and energized for the final minutes of the game. Perhaps for me this sabbatical is my few minutes on the bench, a chance to get my second wind so that I can play my best down the stretch when it matters most. It feels that way to me.
I'll be reporting in from time to time, posting about my experiences these next two months. Rather than list my plans, I'll let them unfold week by week as I journal and share a few pictures. I hope you will stay tuned.
Henri J. M. Nouwen took a year-long sabbatical late in his life. His diary from that experience begins with these thoughts which express my feelings so well:
This is the first day of my sabbatical. I am excited and anxious, hopeful and fearful, tired, and full of desire to do a thousand things. The coming year stretches out in front of me as a long, open field full of flowers and full of weeds. How will I cross that field? What will I have learned when I finally reach the other end. . . .
I feel strange! Very happy and very scared at the same time. I have always dreamt about a whole year without appointments, meetings, lectures, travels, letters, and phone calls, a year completely open to let something radically new happen. But can I do it? Can I let go of all the things that make me feel useful and significant? I realize I am quite addicted to being busy and experience a bit of withdrawal anxiety. . . .
But underneath all these anxieties, there is an immense joy. Free at last! Free to think critically, to feel deeply, and to pray as never before. Free to write about the many experiences that I have stored up in my heart and mind during the last nine years. Free to deepen friendships and explore new ways of loving. Free most of all to fight the Angel of God and ask for a new blessing. . . .
One thing that helps me immensely is that the Daybreak community has sent me on this sabbatical. . . . Although many of my Daybreak friends said, "We will miss you," they also said, "It is good for you and for us that you go." They affirm my vocation to be alone, read, write, and pray, and thus to live something new that can bear fruit not only in my own life but also in the life of our community.
Right now I have no excuses for anything but to embark on a journey and to trust that all will be well.