Sabbatical has begun: final details are wrapped up, my email auto-reply is active, my office door is closed. I spent a whirlwind weekend in New Jersey at a dear friend’s wedding, and the plane takeoff provided me with a marker of separation. Yet now I’m home and beginning to live into the sabbatical reality. Final Scotland packing lists need to be made, but I’m taking a couple of days to simply be.
Letting go has been harder than I expected. There were a few tasks that didn’t get done before I left and it’s been difficult to fight the temptation to sneak into the office and finish them off. I feel the stretching of moving outside my comfort zone in a myriad of ways, from preparing for a summer of travel to simply being at home and not in my office. I’m tired. Transitioning to sabbatical, especially after a busy few days full of congregation goodbyes and travel out east has left me drained. Letting go takes physical, emotional and spiritual effort.
A pastor who took a sabbatical a couple of years ago told me about the physical change he felt while he was temporarily released from his pastoral responsibilities–his shoulders felt lighter and he noticed himself walking taller. He connects this to taking off his stole. Each Sunday, many pastors wear a fabric stole around their shoulders while leading worship, representing the yoke of Christ; the opportunity to set down my stole, if even for a few weeks, removes a physical weight from my shoulders. My muscles are used to carrying it; it will take a little while for them to adjust.
The past few nights my dreams have repeated the same theme: pregnancy. New life, however it’s created or birthed, involves physical change, stress and work, yet it also brings hope and joy. I’m feeling the tiredness of adjustment, yet I’m also beginning to walk lighter as I embrace a completely different way of living.