Updated: Jun 12, 2020
My heart was heavy and I was feeling restless a few days ago. I know this feeling too well. For 5 years, I struggled with restlessness. So I took a sabbatical.
I was in Stillwater, Minnesota. Just 40 minutes drive from downtown Minneapolis where the recent protest over Georges Floyd's death started. Unlike the chaos that TV channels and social media are showing these days, my experience at Stillwater was tranquil.
Our hosts and sabbatical mentors, Jerry and Diana, reminded us that there is no specific outcome expected from us. There is no personal development plans. No research papers to write. No PhD to pursue. Jerry and Diana, will be quick to add "There is no deadline to complete your sabbatical. Take a year if you need. Two if not sufficient. There will be no letter to evict you out of the property." That's how generous and gracious the Dudziks are. We had the whole house to ourselves. They also let us use their car.
Had fun we did. Jacqueline and I are from Singapore and Singaporeans are very serious about everything. So we took our rest and fun seriously. You can read about it here. Seriously.
It took me more than a month of rest to realize that I was more tired than I thought. I felt so tired. Now I know why I was feeling restless initially. My mind was busy. The body may be resting but the mind feels like it is at a Formula 1 racing track. This realization prompted me to give myself permission to rest. More specifically, giving myself permission to take my time to rest. I can't rush time. And I can't rush rest.
Reading helps me rest. Holding a book on my hand helps me focus. The words on the pages of the book takes my thoughts away from the Formula 1 racing track.
Dallas Willard posits that:
“the way to liberation and rest lies through a decision and a practice. The decision is to release the world and your fate, including your reputation and “success,” into the hands of God. This is not a decision to not act at all, though in some situations it may come to that. It is, rather, a decision concerning how you will act: you will act in dependence on God. You will not take charge of the outcome. You will do your part of course, but your part will always be chastened by a sense of who God is - not you!”
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our hidden life in God
In another book “Resilient Ministry - What pastors told us about surviving and thriving” by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C, Guthrie, posit that “the root idea behind the word sabbath is simply; Quit. Take a break. Cool it.”
These authors opened up for me a new perspective about sabbatical; what it means to rest. A sabbatical is not just the absence of work but a posture of surrendering, a humility to give up and a ruthless trust to call it quits.
Oh yes, I told you that my heart was heavy and I was feeling restless a few days ago. It's a sign that I need to rest. It's a sign that I am holding on to too much. It's a sign that I need to ask myself those questions I used to asked myself when I was on a sabbatical. What do I need to let go? What do I need to let out? Who do I need to let off? And what do I need to let in?