So today I’m setting out into some unfamiliar territory. This summer will mark seven years in my present pastoral role, and my church has generously offered me a three-month sabbatical. I’ve seen friends and colleagues take sabbaticals over the years and always wondered what one of these actually looks and feels like. I’m about to find out. It felt a bit strange when I turned out the lights and walked out the church door yesterday afternoon. It was a good strange, don’t get me wrong! It had been a lovely service where I was blessed on my way with good words, warm hearts, and delicious food. But still. Strange.
What, you might be wondering, does one do with three months of sabbatical time? Well, the first thing is say, “Thank you!” A sabbatical is a gift that I don’t take it lightly. I know that many people work far harder than I and never get this opportunity. There are times when I feel like this is a gift that is barely deserved. But once I have made my way through the usual grim terrain of self-flagellation and guilt that seems to be almost hard-wired into me, I do actually have something of a plan.
I’ll be doing a bit of studying (auditing a course out at Regent College in Vancouver), a bit of traveling (my wife and I are going on a learning tour to Israel and Palestine in May/June) a bit of retreating, a bit of visiting family and friends, a bit of work around the house, and hopefully a fair amount of time on the motorcycle. I’d like to read more and work on a few spiritual disciplines. I should probably be quiet more. And pray. I would like to encounter God in new ways. I look forward to this.
I’ve tried to strike the perfect balance of scheduled/non-scheduled stuff. I was told by those who have done this once or twice that it’s important not to cram your sabbatical so full of activities that you come back more tired than when you left, but also not to leave it so open-ended that you end up just wasting the time. We’ll see if I’ve managed to calibrate things appropriately.
I’ve also decided to take a break from blogging. I’ve been considering this for a while, and a sabbatical seemed as good a time as any to do it. I’ve been writing here twice a week or so for over eleven years now and I’ve noticed at least since the new year that I’ve begun to feel a bit fatigued or stale or predictable or… well, I can’t quite put my finger on it, to be honest. Sometimes I read what I’ve written and I think, “Oh man, I’m starting to bore myself.” Which isn’t a good sign. So it’s probably a good time to give the Internet a break from my words. Probably a good time to recalibrate, reflect, reset and think about if/how I want to keep this thing going.
I don’t know how this will go, to be honest. Writing here has become one of the rhythms of my life. It’s part work, part recreation, part therapy, part vocation, part what-else-would-I-do-but write? And I don’t think I’ll stop writing. I’m not sure I could (although maybe for the first few weeks 🙂 ). But I won’t be writing here. Maybe it will be good for me to rediscover the possibility of writing for my own sake instead of pedagogically or to impress or (humbly) indict all of the wrongness out there in Internet-land. It will almost certainly be good to be rid of the disease of writing for the fleeting approval of social media for a few months. Whatever else I’ve learned in eleven years of blogging, I know that writing with a constant eye on traffic and stats and likes and shares and comments is corrosive to my soul.
So, I’ll be going dark here for a while. The blog will still be accessible, obviously, so you’re welcome to poke around in the archives if you like. But no new content in the immediate future. As always, I’m grateful to those who drop by and read what I write here. You’re often quite a bit more gracious and charitable than I deserve. Eleven years of good conversation and very often kind affirmation are also gifts that I don’t take lightly. I wish you well in the coming months.
And now, I have a list to attend to that that my wife has generously provided for the first day of my sabbatical. I think I can already feel my soul being restored.