Sabbatical

Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.
Alice Walker, poet

Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a “ceasing”) is a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year).

I jokingly tell people I’m on sabbatical; but I’m only half-way joking. I left the Ledger-Enquirer on Oct. 21. After a few weeks, it began to feel like deep rest, and for that I’m grateful. I doubt there will be another time in my life, until retirement, when I can take this kind of hiatus. When I was first pondering how much time to take, I thought a month would do; then I backed it up. And I’m glad I did, and could. Number one, I live with the world’s Most Supportive Husband. He growls only slightly when he goes out the door to work everyday, but I remind him that he’ll be retired much before I will. (Child bride that I am.)

On my first “official” day off from regular work, I felt confused and disoriented. Then I began to get into a sort of daily rhythm: prayer/journaling; catching up on correspondence, via email and otherwise (and too much Facebook!); exercise; and sometimes a little bit of house cleaning but I’m definitely not overdoing it in that regard. Also I’m doing some freelancing.

At times I feel guilty for this period of self-indulgence, but I’m trying to work through that. Our culture sends strong signals that to have worth, we must be constantly productive, like bees. Even children don’t escape this message. So, I am trying to BE before I go back to a more regular routine.

How about you? If you’ve had a sabbatical, what were some of the joys and struggles you experienced? If you haven’t had one, how would you fill your time?

Raining

It’s raining here in C-town. But we need it, and it’s soothing to listen to. I’m sure the people out collecting the trash today would disagree.

I’m still maneuvering through WordPress, Day 2. Bear with me.

About the name, Gaps in the Road: Mainly it’s a metaphor. For all of us, there are times when gaps come–expected or planned, or unexpected. Gaps in employment. Gaps from life to death. Or even more minor life changes: new neighbors, pets.

I’m facing such a gap in my own life and it’s both exciting and daunting. After about 20 years as a full-time journalist for newspapers, I’m turning to hospital chaplaincy as a new calling. Earlier this year, I took what’s called a unit of CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education, at a local hospital. (The one where I was born, in fact.) And it turned me on to a new possibility. Because I had been to seminary, most of my friends studying for the Episcopal priesthood were required to take CPE. So I knew a little bit going in.

Still, CPE is unique to each person. Briefly, you make rounds to hospital patients (or inmates or nursing home patients, wherever your clinic site may be); and you rotate call with other students. Being on call means the hospital calls you at times of death when you go and be a presence to the family. A friend described this type of ministry as “bus stop pastoral care,” because you’re not with the people long-term like a pastor would be.

CPE pushes your emotional buttons. Say you’re visiting with a sick person who reminds you of your grandmother. Issues come up, and you have to learn to incorporate them into your outreach to the person in the bed. Chaplains minister to staff, too. It’s not easy for them, either, to deal with suffering on a regular basis.

More to come. Thank you for reading.