Somewhere in the small hours this morning, I had a work dream. I don’t remember the details – I didn’t see my desk, my computer, or any church members. But it left me with the strong sense that I needed to get ready for Bible Study today, maybe outline a sermon, or perhaps send a few emails. Don’t misunderstand me – it wasn’t a nightmare. I enjoy those things. But as I’m on sabbatical, I’m not doing them right now. Maybe my brain was processing this shift, this slowing of schedule.
I’ve started a book by Bruce Epperly with the subtitle “Clergy Self Care in the 21st Century.” So far, it focuses a lot on being trapped by technology – the pressure of 24/7 connections through cell phones, email and social media. The book also adds a fair number of 20th century issues: over-work and under-play, lack of exercise, excess of guilt. None of these is unique to ministry. Perhaps the most daunting is plain old “works righteousness” – the belief that we gain favor and value primarily through what we do.
Honestly, some of this applies less to me – I neglect my cell-phone with great infamy, I don’t tweet, and, so far, I only blog while on sabbatical. I do let email invade my days off, and I’m a now-and-then Facebook consumer/producer. On the positive, I walk every day, rather publically (thanks for the honks!) I really try to set reasonable boundaries around my days off, and I take most of (sometimes all of) my vacation days.
Probably the characteristic that tags me hardest is guilt. I have felt a bit naughty planning this much time away from the church. How can I be worthy if I’m not doing tasks that please others? (Though after two days of sabbatical, I must admit the other 56 are sounding pretty good!) But my congregation is the real guilt-cure here. You have been so supportive of this sabbatical, so freeing, so willing to take on a little extra so that I can let go of it. And so sincere. So, you free me to truly enjoy the gift of this time. My gratitude continues!