I am starting to get anxious about the sabbatical I am taking this summer. Primarily my anxiety stems from a fear that I will waste the opportunity and not reach my goals, or perhaps worse, that I will do all the stuff I am planning and come out of it not any more refreshed or renewed. I realize that this fear shows a lack of faith, since I tell my congregation often that the opposite of faith is fear! But I never claim to have the Christian life down pat, nor do I have all the answers. And I realize that the spiritual journey is not a "tip-toe through the tulips" kind of thing.
At the same time, I am having second thoughts about taking the sabbatical at all. To be honest, the two things are related, because I know in the past when I come "home" from a retreat that I FEEL closer to God… for a few days. But then I slip right back into my busy life and I lose that sense of closeness. So in a sense, I fear coming back from the sabbatical and people say they see no difference in me at all, or worse, I see no difference in myself. Better to not go, right? At least then I can fall back on my "exhaustion" as an excuse for my ineffectiveness as a pastor and my lack of spiritual depth as a person.
But don't worry! I am going to take the sabbatical, and I am going to try and strike a balance between work (reading, thinking, writing), play (fishing, baseball, golf, outings), and rest. And I truly hope that I will come out of it with a deeper commitment to Sabbath as a spiritual discipline.
What an awesome opportunity I am being given! In some respects I think "It's about time! I've been pouring myself out for 28+ years, so I DESERVE a sabbatical!" In other respects I know I DON'T deserve this and it is truly, in fact, a gift of grace (unmerited favor) both from my congregation and, ultimately, from God. Which only adds to my anxiety about wasting it! But I will boldly go into it with hope and trust and try to withhold evaluation until it is over, and even then to throw in a bucket-full of grace.