Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reflecting on a Sabbatical: Part One

Journaled on Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Many have been asking me if I enjoyed my trip, or if we had a nice vacation. I can only answer with a "Yes." However, if I have time to speak with those who ask--I mean, if I have the time to sit down and look them in the eye long enough for each of us to see beyond the haze of cliche--then I can speak truth to them. The past three and one half months have been the most grueling and wonderfully transforming months I've ever lived.

I've never treated a journey with such reverence. I treasured each day of our recent sabbatical as a gift of life, not of place. So coming home has not seemed a desertion of pleasure, but a continuing of the sojourn. It has not been a disappointing return to the "same old." I have returned to a place I've never been. Same house, same job, same cars and dogs and bills. Different me.

I treasure the Italian apartment we called home for six weeks of our fourteen week, four-continent trip. But I don't long to be back there, in the way I have pined in times past for some surf-side beach chair. What Christ accomplished there, I am experiencing here, now, today--beside the fire in my home. And I benefitted from it earlier today as I encouraged a parishioner who is grieving, and yesterday in a nursing facility while ministering to a friend who has had yet another stroke.

The peace of Christ which is beyond understanding has worked in and through me. And that peace could not have been found on a three week vacation. It required entering daily into the mine of prayer. Daily, over the course of months. (This has not stopped). Finding peace required much confession and loving counsel. Peace was not gained like some loaf of bread to be picked up on aisle one. Peace emerged in tiny nuggets--minute, yet treasured fragments of authenticity and truth; extracted from massive boulder-sized frustration, selfish ambition, grief, and even some unknown resentment that I had been carefully and diligently sweeping under the rug of my psyche.

Spiritual work is not easy. And it cannot be hurried. The Lilly Endowment's Clergy Renewal Grant has provided me the time and the space to do the difficult work of sorting out my life and spirit. Fourteen weeks may seem a long time, but it was only after week thirteen, that I was ready for one more visit with my spiritual director. There I dropped my last anxieties of returning to ministry. I was ready: a new and centered man.

The global destinations we visited were spectacular. Some see them as the reason for the journey. They were not. They were only the setting of a journey of prayer and devotion. I traveled a far greater distance in my heart and head, than over land or sea.

1 comment:

Zee said...

Same house, same job, same cars and dogs and bills. Different me. - Cool... at least when it's a "different you" in a good sense...

Glad that you two had this time "off" (even though it wasn't really "off") - you deserved it.