I have passed the halfway point of this sabbatical. I have now officially spent as much time away from the church as I typically do in a year given my vacation time and continuing education time/study leave. All the time after this is extra time, time I would not normally have away from my daily tasks. I remain thankful for the gift of this time.
This past week I found myself walking along a trail that was beautiful. The temperature was the coolest it had been in over a week, the trees were a brilliant green, and the trail just wild enough to quiet my footsteps. I was planning to spend the whole afternoon walking a loop of eight miles so I applied lots of bug spray, put on my hat, and grabbed my full water bottle. About half a mile into the hike I was doing an invigorating rendition of the slap the bugs away dance. The bugs were so thick and persistent I was walking faster than normal to get to the first break in the trail so I could get out of the woods. Even protected as I was against the bugs my skin was swelling with so many bites I was rethinking ever going outdoors again.
True to form I have been thinking of all the sermon illustrations I can get from that abbreviated hiking experience. One revelation was how the walk reminded me of my emotional state eight weeks ago. At the beginning of this sabbatical I was deep in the woods, walking through a swarm, looking for a way out. As protected as I thought I was against burnout I was breaking from the emotional and physical toll of the life I have been called to live. Eight weeks ago I would not have looked up at the sky because I was barely putting one foot in front of the other to stay on the path.
Today I am finally breathing deeply and looking up. Today I am not looking for the first break so I can get off the trail. This feels like freedom to me. Freedom to dream again. Freedom to explore again. Freedom to fail again. Freedom to delight in the chance to serve God and God’s people. I have missed that feeling of freedom.
I am thankful today I am getting a glimpse of that freedom again.