Now a month into my sabbatical, I wanted to reflect on what I’m seeing and sensing. To be honest, I was kind of dreading this, because I thought I would have very little to say. But to my surprise, I couldn’t be more wrong.
I can start with something I knew long before this sabbatical — I’m a highly anxious person who finds a lot of mental stability and emotional security in routine. There are many routines I have taken part in for well over a decade. I have pursued the same “package” of spiritual practices every morning for over twelve years. Of course, there are many things in my life that have changed, and some significant items almost seasonally. I can absorb this change because of the things in my life that do not change.
Yet, in this sabbatical, I am already having to loosen my grip on some of the things that have never changed, simply to embrace some of the other efforts that I prayerfully set out to engage in. This experience has been unsettling and challenging, but I sense it is very good for me in this season of sabbatical. Here are some new spaces that have invaded my life recently:
Being present without being responsible. I have very rarely allowed myself to be present at ministry functions without having responsibilities. If I’m going to take the time to be there, I am going to expend the energy to contribute. But in this season, we are intentionally letting others lead. We are soft-launching our campus ministry here in Cincinnati, and I have been present at events while Josh Bosse functions as team leader. I find myself observing and taking photos (something I have always been terrible at remembering). I absorb the events in a completely different way and am able to lead differently because of it.
Counseling. What can I say? The work of therapy is such a healthy thing for me as a husband, a father, and a leader.
Writing retreat. I am currently under contract with NavPress to write my first book. This is a completely new experience that has forced me into intentional, creative spaces, and an experience where I am vulnerable and open to a new kind of failure. I am learning every step of the way.
Writing cohort. Part of this new writing experience has pushed me to make sure I am around other professionals who are doing the same thing. I recently joined a writing cohort where I am learning about the process of writing and the significance of writing in leadership. I was taken aback at my first meeting as I realized how long it’s been since I put myself in a “learning” posture. Some of what was said surprised me as it peeled open previously unspoken things. I realized how lonely I had been in some of these spaces; I had not recognized this loneliness without the help of others who had been there.
Hebrew class. Everything I “know” about Hebrew has been self-taught — until now! I enrolled in some private Hebrew classes and they are challenging me in big ways. I haven’t been a student since the spring of 2005. What a weird “new” experience! I was a radically different person when I was a traditional student; the methods I had back then simply do not work with the new me. This has been a wicked learning curve — sometimes encouraging to see my growth, sometimes frustrating to have to reevaluate assumptions, sometimes refreshing to simply be fresh and new.
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What I’m already learning in this sabbatical is the art of surrender. I need to surrender to new spaces, to new postures, to new ideas. I have given up things I have been doing for years in order to find out what might be lying behind this door or that opportunity. It’s been humbling, but life-giving. And I’m trying to take good notes.