The waves were very calm that afternoon, making for a time to bob up and down and take in the placidity of it all. I even wished that I could bottle up this calmness, as if taking the water could somehow bring its serenity with it. If I could actually do that, I could sell it and become a billionaire, and maybe even slip some into some world leaders' food, thus solving several global catastrophes at once.
But I couldn't do that, so the moment was all I had, to be revisited when those inevitable moments of un-calm present themselves.
I'm glad to say that there have been far more of the calm moments over these weeks of sabbatical than the un-calm ones. That's the point, of course. You make it a goal during times like this to rest, rejuvenate, and become newly energized, at least for your specific context of ministry but in a larger sense for your sense of self or calling or being.
I decided beforehand that the theme of my sabbatical would be Falling Back in Love With My Vocation, where I would focus on remembering why I love the work of ministry in general. I figured
So, what did I do to attempt that?
- I had discernment conversations with several close and trusted friends.
- I read and sat in silence and walked at a local retreat house, during which I learned to listen to my body by lying on the floor in the chapel and even falling asleep on a couch.
- I read books by Hannah Paasch, Martha Beck, and Rachel Held Evans that helped me gain greater awareness and appreciation for my self and for the church.
- I made a pilgrimage to places in Pennsylvania and New York where some ancestors are buried, including one who served and faced trials in ministry generations before me.
- I attended the United Church of Christ's General Synod in Milwaukee, during which I connected with friends, enjoyed Wisconsin food and drink, shared in worship and the life of the wider church, and gave myself breaks when my body told me to.
- As mentioned, I spent a week on the beach, which I consider to be one of my spiritual places, to relax and enjoy my family.
- Inspired by Austin Kleon, I played with different artistic and creative expressions, mainly blackout poetry and collages.
So after all of that, did I fall back in love with my vocation?
I'd say yes.
Through these activities, I remembered my connection to things within me and beyond me both human and divine. And I re-discovered that those connections, when nurtured and appreciated and used well, can make all the difference in my personal, spiritual, and vocational health.
I remembered that people have done this work before me, and people are doing this work alongside me, and I can learn from them all and rely on them when doubts and fatigue and questions creep into my mind or soul.
I remembered that I can trust myself when it comes to my ideas and abilities and also my suspicions of when I need to rest or let something go or set something down.
I remembered that I still have something to offer the church and the world, no matter the specifics, and that God isn't done with me yet when it comes to this ministry thing. It's not always easy or pleasant or affirming, but it's still my work to do, and God has called and will equip me to do it.
And when I feel otherwise, I can always come away to the quiet places and to calm waters to remember all of this all over again.