Monday, May 20, 2013

Sabbatical Musings #7 - Disappointment

   Disappointment?  How could you be disappointed with 3 months away from work, and travelling?  I'm not disappointed - although it's harder than you think.  I love working, and miss the routine, and being useful.  Working out travel details with various family and/or friends can get complex.  One person told me, "If I had a sabbatical, I'd go totally offline and not be in touch with anybody."  But I have a wife, 3 grown children, aging parents, and all the ongoing issues that don't just vanish because I'm on sabbatical.
   So why the title "Disappointment"?  The worst part about my sabbatical is the truth that grieves me:  I have disappointed people.  Some I probably am not even aware of!  But I know parents who were very disappointed I wasn't there for their child's Confirmation last Sunday, people who were disappointed I didn't attend a funeral, helping professionals who needed me to do something for them but I was just flat out gone, church members who brought visitors to hear me preach and were disappointed (three have told me this!) I was absent, preachers who were disappointed I wasn't speaking at my usual preaching conference, and even a high school classmate I haven't seen for years who heard about my sabbatical and felt crushed because she has a tough job that would never permit even 3 weeks off, much less months - and she Facebooked me to say she was disappointed (her word) in me. 
   I hate disappointing people.
   I love the fact that I have the privilege of living a life that matters, at least a little, to some people - and so they are disappointed when I'm not there, when I can't help.  I love being able to help, at least a little, and have built my life to be as dependable and accessible a person as possible.  So the disappointment is sad for me.  A few have asked why I didn't do the sabbatical at some other time and not miss what they thought of as important.  Good question - but it's tough to block out time that doesn't block out something, and that works for my family.
   I hope anyone who might be disappointed in me might be merciful, and count on me again once I'm back.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sabbatical Musings #6 - 5 thoughts from the past few days

     1. Yesterday, I had a profound thought, but I didn’t write it down, so I can’t remember it today.  Word to the wise:  take notes.

     2. I LOVE not worrying about how I look, what I wear, if my hair is in place when I’m on sabbatical.  When I’m in Charlotte, if I wear jeans, inevitably I bump into someone who is compelled to inform me, “Oh, I see you’re wearing jeans.” 

 3. At home, I spend way too much time indoors, and in my car.  On sabbatical, I’m outside, even if it’s pouring down rain or wicked cold, and every day I walk further than I’d walk in a month at home.  Today Noah and I hiked to the top of the Devil’s Staircase – an arduous climb.  Right after we took photos, it started sleeting.  Then after 30 minutes of being pelted by flecks of ice, the sun came out and we were presented with a rainbow.  My legs hurt, my shoes were soaked, mud everywhere, shivering, hands shaking… and I’m invigorated.  I need to engage with and participate in the beauty and peril of God’s good earth in order to be more genuinely human.

     4. We did something really hard today, and we have every day, trying to find places that aren’t on the map, ducking under “Trail closed” signs, climbing beyond weariness.  I suspect that if we did things that were hard more often, we’d be better prepared when we were faced with something hard.  Typically at home we cultivate easy, comfortable lives, and avoid the difficult.  No wonder we’re not very adept at crises when they pop up.  Ancient people had a huge advantage over us in this.

     5. And finally, as I travel I witness everywhere the innate goodness in people.  A waitress is patient with my fumbling to order food I’m not familiar with.  Drivers look amused when I get on the wrong (that is, the right) side of the road.  And a total stranger on the train overheard me saying I wonder why they don’t sell Hobnobs and McVities chocolate digestives in the U.S., and that I plan to take some home – and when we reboarded the train after a short break in Mallaig, he handed me a bag of Hobnobs and McVities.

     Maybe tomorrow I’ll have another profound thought.  If so, I’ll certainly write it down and tell you about it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sabbatical Musings #5 - day 30

     So as of today, I haven’t worked for a month.  That’s not entirely true.  A few little things have come up (oh, and one fairly large crisis), and a couple of dozen people have approached me with “I know you’re on sabbatical, but…”  I don’t mind at all.  But what’s surprising is how busy I have been – helping me understand what retirees mean when they say “I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work.”  This sabbatical does make me wonder what my own retirement, looming out there a decade or so from now, will be like.

     One person reprimanded me for blogging, declaring I should be totally off line.  But I like to write, it's energizing, not work at all - and I assured her I wouldn't mind if she took a little sabbatical from reading.  She laughed; we're pals.

     My great comfort in being away is how great church is going without me!  Attendance is steady, even above average for this time of year.  I watched the live stream this past Sunday, and heard stellar music and powerful preaching.  The Church is the people, the Church is of God…  I have labored under no illusions that I am necessary to the Church, and it is tremendously gratifying to see the Church being the Church without me lifting a finger!  I do miss worshipping with my Church family.

     I’ve spent some time with a spiritual director – a warm, gregarious diocesan priest who listened attentively to me talk about my life, and did so through the lens of God’s love, holiness and call.  We spoke of how to pray, and how to be grateful to God and joyful in life.  I recommend this kind of conversation to everybody.

     It has been quirky and a tad unsettling to run into people who know I’m on sabbatical.  At the Harris-Teeter the other night, a woman’s eyes flew open, and she told me quite resolutely “You’re not supposed to be here!”  But I really was supposed to pick up the items on my list. 

     If you have seen me, you will know I’m attempting to go semi-incognito by sporting facial hair.  Don’t worry, I’ll shave it soon.  I didn’t really plan to grow a beard.  I just didn’t shave one day, nor the next… and it’s a lousy beard.  I remember in high school wanting desperately to be able to grow a beard, and it’s fascinating to contemplate the meaning of facial hair throughout history.  For instance, during the Civil War, men grew beards to assert their masculinity.  I think the only thing I’ve been asserting is I’m out of the routine.  But not for long:  it gets on my nerves and requires more maintenance than I’d imagined.

     So, more sabbatical to come.  If you’re reading this, I’m honored, humbled, and a little surprised you’re interested.  But friends do these things with one another, so thanks for reading.