Sabbatical Post #3: Working to Rest

Many months before I began this sabbatical, I listened to a priest say that he could never take a sabbatical because it would take so much work to arrange for others to take over his duties and his household situations that it wasn’t worth it.

I know what he means. I started arranging for the continuation of work during my absence months before I left, and I have done quite a lot of work during the first weeks of my sabbatical to arrange travel details and housesitting and petsitting while I am gone.

And yet, I can’t agree with him. During my quiet, meditative time, I have reflected on the flurry of activity leading to my upcoming travel, especially when I felt overwhelmed about all the trivial details I had to handle, and I realized two things. First, it makes sense that it takes some work to make deep rest possible. We can’t simply drop all our responsibilities, loved ones, dirty piles of laundry, etc. and escape. To rest well, we need to prepare to rest. And that takes some work. We have to know what gives us true rest, and we have to arrange for it to happen.

It’s no different for people who want a good night’s sleep, night after night. They have to prepare for that good night’s sleep. They have to eat and drink in a way that lets their body rest, and they have to shut off distractions that interfere with sleep. Avoid late-night important conversations. Turn off the laptop. Turn off the news.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t turn off the news of the latest mass shootings in the United States. I didn’t watch account after account, but I couldn’t allow myself to ignore the horror, either. And last night, I asked myself–and God–whether it really was right for me to embark on a retreat and lots of fun time with friends, good wine, beautiful vistas on bike rides and hiking trips–while families grieve and our nation remains divided about the proliferation of guns in our neighborhoods?

And then I remembered one of the rules of the Franciscan 9-point Rule of Life.

RETREAT. Retreating is not the same thing as hiding from the world or denying the reality of our lives. It is acknowledging that to hear God deeply and often, we must turn off the chatter of the world, especially from the dark corners of the world and of our minds. We must rest. We must recharge. We must listen to God, and if we are lucky, we also should grab any opportunities we have to live joyfully and to laugh.

It might take some work for me to turn away from the cares of the world, but I remind myself that someone else will work and weep for now. I’m sure my turn will come again.

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