I had an ambitious sabbatical list. Only six things on it but they were six BIG things!
The thing is, God has more than given me what I asked for. Not, of course, that it was looking good even three weeks ago! God is like that with me. He keeps me waiting, the girl who really would like everything to have happened by yesterday and who has not been greatly gifted with patience. He tells me what he is going to do and then he keeps me waiting so long that I get agitated and slightly irritated that he is not working to my plan. I know, sanctification seems to be a long and drawn-out process for me here, right?!
Three weeks ago, I was coming out of what had been a difficult three months. Days and weeks of endless slog through the murky waters of what could have felt like depression if I didn’t know better from previous experiences. And I had been so disappointed by these months. A sabbatical, after all, is not meant to be about sadness and an encroaching darkness, about a lack of emotional and physical resilience. That was not what I had signed up for!
Yet now that the worst seems to be over, I can look with clearer vision at the months of absence from church and leadership. I can see that in fact God has done much more than I could have asked. I have stayed off Facebook the whole time. The iPhone spent large periods of time in my bedroom drawer and I didn’t tweet or read my Twitter feed. I have slowed down. Ask the people on the faculty corridor at college. Some of them actually overtake me now as I meander down the hallway at a deliberate and considered pace!
It’s not just these chosen slowings, however. I’ve also gone deep. January saw me hand in about 27,000 words to my supervisor which were a triumph of grace. (I can only say that now he has broadly approved them, of course! I still unfailingly convince myself that my drafting efforts are barely passable within about a week or two of handing them in for comments…but I know that nearly every woman is the same in this vulnerability to self-deception so what can ya do?!) But these words were a triumph of grace because they represented the major part of my research efforts in 2013, an engagement with a book which at first I barely understood. In fact, even on the second reading of this book I was re-reading sentences five times just to untangle the dense prose and the concepts of which I knew little. I have honestly never struggled so much academically as I did trying to do justice to the sense of this author’s work! Anyway, had it not been for the sabbatical, I might never have nailed that detailed synopsis by the beginning of 2014 and, more importantly, I would likely not yet have managed the subsequent ‘deep, original and creative work’ which I needed to do with it for the sake of developing my thesis. I am under no illusions. That my feeble and fearful scribblings, forays into the mystery with ‘about two feet of the darkness illuminated before [me]…as [I worked]…[my] way from word to word‘ became something which I’m now pleased with – this was gift, pure and simple.
The sabbatical depth wasn’t only about research. It was also personal, related to the roots, the spiritual security and the A&P sweet spot. My retreat with Beauty From Ashes in November was significant in this. Beyond that, I don’t want to talk about all of those things yet. I’m not ready. There is too much still to be worked out in post-sabbatical life.
So, despite seeing little sign of much God-stuff until three weeks ago when he picked up again with some of the deep roots soul stuff for me, I received not one but six gifts. Thank you, Jesus.
This is a post in my sabbatical series.