I watched this short TED clip this morning as I had breakfast and it reminded me that we are close to another ‘sabbatical’ period. The presenter in this talk works on a year every seven years to allow the creative genius to refresh and renew. His argument is that instead of breaking life in three segments as most people do of 1-21 = study 22-65 = work 65+ = retirement, why not take 5 or 6 of those ‘retirement’ years and intersperse them in your working years to enhance what you are doing?
While the sabbath is a biblical concept his argument is not religious at all – it is purely pragmatic – that ‘it works’ (funny that…) but few are game to try it. It could sabotage all we have created in business… I might get bored… what a waste of time and money… But perhaps the sabbatical isn’t just a self indulgent luxury afforded to the wealthy. Perhaps it is something more of us could build into life if we so chose?
He offers 3 ways of looking at work – as ‘job’ for financial returns and minimal enjoyment or as ‘career’ for financial gain but with advancement and aspiration as part of it, or as ‘calling’, where the motivation is primarily intrinsic and the rewards are there whether there is financial gain or not.
I have often wondered why so few people live in the realm of calling or vocation and I get the sense that part of it is that most have no clue as to the concept. Much of that is due to our western world mentality of job=$$= stuff and better job=more$=more stuff which somehow suffocates any hope of a sense of vocation or calling emerging. If the goal is more and more stuff then the mechanism required to get to that goal is simply to earn more $$.
Simple. But rather sad. If this is life then is it any wonder our society is awash with depression. The creative spark is snuffed out as the need to ‘get ahead’ calls the shots. Interestingly, the devotion to work and advancement is so often counter-productive when it comes to finding genuine contentment and peace.
Over the last 30 years of my own working life I’ve taken several sabbaticals – not a year in length – but time enough to disengage from the predictable patterns of life and to allow the heart and mind to be stretched in some new directions. Usually they have come at the end of a term of ministry in a church environment and have been opportunities to step back and reflect before bowling on with the next project.
At the end of our time at Scarborough Baptist we took 3 months off from ministry. In that time I wrote a report for the Churches of Christ on the impact of their sports ministry programs and that funded the break as well as being an enjoyable project. It was in that time that I discovered the ‘sabbatical’ concept as I emerged from 3 months ‘off’ fresh and energetic, rather than simple closing the door on one job and then opening it on another a week later.
As we finished 8 years of ministry at Lesmurdie and headed up to Brighton we spent 4 or 5 months in transition, travelling for some of it and settling in for the remainder. Then in 2009 after 8 years of ministry with Upstream we finished up and spent 5 months travelling around Oz before coming back to a new role at Quinns Baptist.
I find a 3-6 month break every 5-7 years is a rhythm that allows us to declutter the mind, reconnect with our own sense of calling and get some good refreshment. We are coming to the end of another term of ministry in October 2014 – 5 years of ministry in the same community – working with the same people and doing the same kind of stuff.
Its been a good time, but I sense a significant break may be on the cards in some way. As the end of a 5 year term comes my eyes naturally look up to see what else is out there, in the way of ‘opportunities’ but my heart is strongly rooted both in these people and this location so I am hoping we will be able to stay another 5, 10 or 20…
But to do another 5, 10 or 20 well we may need to defrag a little, allow the imagination spark and listen again to God more closely and what he may want to say to us. We have already scheduled a month in Ireland for July, but I imagine another 8 weeks may valuable to allow a better disconnect.
I liked what the TED presenter had to say about ‘planning’ a sabbatical rather than just discovering you have 3-4 months of time to fill and little to do in it. Right now I am thinking of some folks I’d like to visit, spend time with, learn from, be inspired by and the possibilities of that happening… the cost is always a factor because they are dotted all over the world, but perhaps… perhaps…
Either way we have established the value of the sabbatical to refresh, inspire and renew.