If you’ve been following this blog series then you’re getting a good feel for how impactful my recent sabbatical was for me. It was kind of like the experience of realigning tires on a car. When your tires get out of alignment, you can still move forward but it’s not a smooth ride; and, sooner rather than later, the tires will wear out and you can’t move at all.
That’s where I was.
I was still moving forward with my goals but some things in my life had gotten out of alignment, so the journey was more difficult and rough. Something was off.
The sabbatical, therefore, was akin to taking a car into the shop for realignment. By taking some time away from ministry to focus on myself, I was able to bring everything back into alignment with my deepest-held values. This alignment brought new energy, new perspective, and renewed focus.
The reason I needed to take myself to the “car shop” was because I failed to do the routine maintenance that would have kept me from having to seek such a radical “fix.”
So, how can you and I incorporate sabbatical principles into our everyday lives so that we don’t wear down and wear out?
First, remember the purposeful nature of sabbatical. It is based on the biblical ideal of sabbath, emanating from the Hebrew word “shabbat,” which means “to cease or rest.” And it is aimed at God. So, sabbatical is a time to push the pause button on your life so that you can connect with God, honor the rhythms of rest that God ordered life around, and embrace the good things with which God has filled your life.
Second, order your time of sabbatical around specific goals that are connected to the purposeful nature of biblical sabbath. During my sabbatical, I focused on three things:
- Resting – giving myself permission to sleep, relax, and resume a normal pace of life
- Reconnecting – deliberately reconnecting with God, my family, and my life vision
- Recharging – spending time doing things that add energy and vitality to my life
These goals provided the framework for my sabbatical, and the intentional pursuit of these three goals made my sabbatical more effective and rewarding.
Third, create a customizable plan for regular sabbath rest. Sabbaticals can be done on weekends, on a monthly basis, on a quarterly basis, and/or on an annual basis. However you choose to do it, plan for it. Otherwise, it won’t get done.
Fourth, intentionally seek ways to incorporate sabbatical principles into your daily schedule. These will also be customizable, but here’s a starter list of ideas:
- Schedule time for prayer and Bible reflection. This does not have to be a complicated, time-consuming process. Even a few minutes everyday will keep you tethered to your Creator, your purpose, and your identity. This “tethering” is essential for the inner-peace that our souls crave.
- Exercise daily. When we allow our bodies to atrophy from a lack of intentional movement and use, we are also depleting our emotional, mental, and spiritual resources. This interconnection is why many of us get short-tempered when we get tired, as an example. And when you exercise, pray or listen to worship music, a sermon podcast, or an audio version of the Bible to remind you that taking care of your body is also a spiritual discipline.
- Limit your time on social media and schedule the times you check your email. These things are not only famous time-consumers; they are also “drainers” of emotional energy. You don’t have to avoid them altogether, but you should drastically limit the time you spend on them.
- Connect with at least one person a day. By “connect” I mean taking the time to ask about someone, to have a meaningful conversation with someone, and to encourage someone. This will help you slow down and prioritize relationships instead sacrificing relationships while you speed through your to-do list.
- Seek to bless at least one person a day. This will fill you up emotionally as much as it will encourage another person. This will also keep you connected to your core values/beliefs, and that connection is always energizing.
- Eat dinner with your family and ask them about their day.
- Read a book. Instead of coming home from work and vegging out in front of the TV for the rest of the evening, turn off the TV for a period of time and read a book. Reading engages your mind in a way that builds greater processing-capacity, which is helpful in managing stress.
- Set aside your phone. At a set time each night, set your phone aside so that you can prove to yourself that you have power over it and to remind yourself that the phone is simply a tool and not your life.
- Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each evening, take five minutes to write down three things about the day for which you are thankful.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep. Sleep is the time that your mind and body restores itself, which means that you need sleep – and a lot of it.
I’m sure you have even better ideas for how you can incorporate sabbatical principles into your everyday life, so I encourage you to implement those ideas so that you can regularly maintain the vehicle God has given you to drive through life with, and so that you can make the most of the life He has given you.
Thanks for reading!