“What should I do on my sabbatical?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question through the years. And it’s such a difficult question to answer, because it’s a question that’s dripping with irony. “What should I do on my sabbatical?” I always want to respond, “Wait, what? Is this a trick question?” After all, isn’t the point of a sabbatical not to do anything? Isn’t it about making time and space to rest and renew and recover? And isn’t the essence of rest to stop doing and to start being? Which means that instead of asking, “What should I do on my sabbatical?” we need to start by asking, “What should I not do on my sabbatical?” That would make a lot more sense, for a sabbatical seems to be a lot more about undoing than it does about doing. Undoing all of those misguided beliefs, hidden agendas, and dysfunctional patterns that got us so worn out, exhausted, and overextended in the first place.
No matter how we try to dress it up, or rationalize it, the fact is that we are addicted to doing. I mean, it’s a terrifying leap from doing to not doing. Am I right? Why else would we fill our lives so full of activity that there is no room, no margin, and no breath? Mostly because so much of our worth and value is tied up in what we do. Which makes not doing such a difficult, if not impossible, proposition. Because in the deepest places of our hearts we are convinced that “If I’m not doing, then I have no value.” We have bought into the lie, and it runs deep.
Therefore, it is going to take a lot of time and space and silence and stillness and listening and prayer—a lot of undoing—to root it all out. It’s going to take us turning off our phones and taking off our headphones and shutting off our computers. It’s going to take a lot of shutting our mouths and opening our ears. It’s going to take a lot of savoring the words of the Scriptures and giving the Spirit of God time and space to have free reign in the deepest places of our hearts and souls. It’s going to require us to stop trying to produce, control, manufacture, achieve, and accomplish.
A sabbatical is a time and a season where we lie fallow (Lev. 25:3-5) and allow God to renew, replenish, and restore us. As Steve Macchia once said, “A sabbatical is to be a time of rest, not a time of redirected productivity.” Which means that maybe the best answer to the question of “What should I do on my sabbatical?” is, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sit. Relax. Breathe. Stroll. Savor. Enjoy. Rest.” If we can do those things, then we might actually be heading in the right direction.