Reflections on Sabbatical

To be unraveled is a good thing. We hold ourselves so tightly. Our thoughts. Our emotions. The stresses of our days. The agendas, schedules, deadlines, meetings, programs; let’s just say the distractions of life, wind us up into knotted messes of anxiety, depression, worry, doubt, anger, indifference…you get the picture.

I was there. I didn’t know how much, but I was there.

Someone asked me the other day how sabbatical was. Was there any big takeaway from my time away? My honest answer was, I don’t know. I can’t fully pinpoint one big thing. One epiphany. One revelation. I don’t recall having a 2 Corinthians 12:2 experience.

However, I do know this, God was near. He began unraveling me. The knot within my soul, the stress and pressure in my chest has softened. Almost vanished I might say.

My six weeks off were filled with a lot of resting. Sitting. Listening. Thinking. Not thinking. Reading. Playing. Praying. Writing. Eating. I enjoyed time with my family, time with my friends, time with my wife, time with strangers on public transportation, and time alone with God. I did a whole lot of nothing at some points. I walked a lot. I drove slower. I took naps. All in all, when I look back, I’m not quite sure what I did other than just be. That’s what I worked on the most. Just being. You know that moment when you’re sitting somewhere and you have no where else to be. No correspondence to attend to and no interactions to have other than with the people right in front of you?

That’s just being. That’s hard. That’s what I worked on.

I focussed on being present to God and to those around me. Many of us might not know these moments because of the pressures of life. It wasn’t until taking a break from the pressures that I realized how little I was truly being present.

I worked on trusting God with the moment. I tried to recognize His presence with me here and now. Not in the future. Not in the past. Right here. Right now. Wherever I was. Whatever I was doing. If the plans changed, that was ok because God was with me. If it rained. That was ok because God was with me. If the sun was shining and the breeze was blowing or I was confined to the middle seat of an airplane with exhausted children around me. It was ok because God was with me.

This is how I want to live. This is what I am fighting for upon my reengaging in ministry. This is the unraveling taking place within.

I know there is more to process, and I am sure I will continue to experience moments of grace as those truths are revealed in the depths of my soul. I’m sure I will go back and read my journal entries at some point. Or maybe I won’t. But I do know God is near. He is true to His Word. He is ever present to us in all moments and circumstances. He is faithful to our holiness and our spiritual growth.

For that I am grateful. And for that, I can say sabbatical was worth it.


Jeremy McQuown