“A question to embody every day. Journal. Meditate. Sleep on it. Daydream. Please rest. Disrupt and push back against a system that views you as a machine. You are not a machine. You are a divine human being. WE WILL REST!” From The Nap Ministry.
"A pastor’s sabbatical is time away from the church to reconnect with God and to rediscover God’s purposes for their life.”
One of the questions often asked by the Lilly Foundation when applying for a sabbatical grant is, “What makes your heart sing?” This is a question I struggle with because I have very few hobbies or activities that I find bring a song to my heart. And yet, I also find that I get excited when new ideas come to mind—when I get to create or cultivate something beautiful or unique. Sadly, I rarely find an opportunity or even motivation to do these kinds of things unless they are for the purpose of something bigger—unless they can ‘produce’ something for ministry or work. Soon, the creation becomes a matter of production; the life becomes stale; the energy wanes.
One of the tenants of the Nap Ministry is that resting is a form of resistance against the idea that one always has to use their time productively. That idea has been further cultivated by our cultural appropriation of capitalism in which time is money, and money is everything. This is not God’s way. This is not Christ’s way. So why has it become our way?
Resisting the impulse to produce
In my sabbatical, I want to experience various forms of resistance that tend to fly in the face of this capitalist idea: rest, play, and creativity. I currently do not rest without feeling guilty. I do not play because I have forgotten. I do not pray—I’ve never felt as connected as I would like. But I still love to be creative when I can find the time. Creativity is the doorway for me to approach these other beautiful elements of life.
“Rest is not easy – especially for Americans. When we spend time in quiet before God, the inner turmoil in our souls comes to the forefront. This turns a time of rest into a spiritual battle. Deep rest is very hard to attain and many never get there. It requires working through all of our inner darkness, our helplessness, and becoming “naked” before God. Only when we have given up all our own striving can we truly rest in God and his love for us. We learn that our humanity is not defined by what we do but by who we are in Christ – becoming human beings again instead of human doings. The time of rest is coming to a close when we begin to experience ourselves solely as people who are deeply loved by God in Christ.”
My first task will be to rest—truly rest. This is terribly difficult for me to do. I intend to do a lot of sleeping, fun reading, and listening to music. Binge watching TV is not rest as much as it is escape for me. Walking and yoga are also active forms of rest. I plan to spend at least 2-3 days at the Benedictine Center for the purpose of going deep into this rest right from the start.
“As we begin to rest deeply in the love of God it can be tempting to get back to work. This would be a mistake. Like the athlete who is recovering from an injury, we need to take it slow and rebuild our strength before re-entering the game or we risk further injury. The renew phase is all about living in the love of God until it becomes our foundational reality. During this phase we begin to live in such a way that every day is shaped by our identity as a child of God who is deeply loved. We learn how to live as Father and child again.”
As part of my renewal, I want to dabble in a variety of creative activities—learning watercolor, doing Zentangle, painting, mandalas, soul collage, calligraphy, photography, etc. without any emphasis on what to do with the outcomes or products. I can take courses through SCC for watercolor, as well as follow various Pinterest and YouTube teachers.
I will also work through a self-guided retreat inspired by Saint Hildegard of Bingem. It is a 6-week course that has reflections and creative activities 6 days of each week. For more info, go to: https://abbeyofthearts.com/programs/self-study-online/hildegard-of-bingen/
“Having surrendered to the will of God, it’s time to step back and look at the big picture of our lives. What has God been up to? How has [God] prepared me for this moment in time? What direction is [God] leading? Working to get clarity on our calling will take time but it will give us confidence when we re-enter ministry. This clarity of call will help us push through the obstacles, conflicts, and sabotage that accompanies leading change. Once we have clarity, we are ready to being planning how to return to ministry in a healthy way.”
Throughout my time, prayer will and must be a part of every day. I am not disciplined in prayer and often do not know where to begin. One who does not do cannot lead. This is a dedicated time to hone my practice—much like honing a workout schedule or healthy diet. It takes time and intention, and it is much easier to do without additional outside distractions. I suspect that prayer for me is more tactile—letting my mind open while I am drawing or coloring or creating in some way. It has always been easier to engage in conversation with others during those moments.
In addition, I will engage more directive books as I begin to look ahead to my return to congregational life.
“The reinvest stage of the sabbatical is all about planning and practicing a new way of living. Many find it helpful to establish a rule of life during this phase. A rule of life is a plan of daily living that emphasizes relationship with God at various points of the day. It also includes plans for self-care, which can be so easy to neglect. Caring for the body, mind, emotions, soul, and family must come before ministry or ministry will become self-destructive.”
As I anticipate returning to a congregational life and schedule, I will begin putting in place how prayer life, rest, and creativity play a part in every day. I know it’s not about ‘fitting’ these things into a schedule but about working a schedule around these foundational elements of faith.