Thursday, May 20, 2010


I have always understood the value of taking sabbatical time be it daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. I have had a regular practice of some sort of Sabbath all my adult life. My last four month sabbatical was one of the most fruitful times of my life. Even though I worked hard, it was a time of rest and re-creation and was a lot of fun. I enjoyed everything about it.

But there is one Sabbath that few people, it seems, ever have an opportunity to experience. I feel very fortunate to be in the middle of it now – it is the experience of a jubilee Sabbath. The Old Testament promotes the concept of the jubilee. The jubilee happens every fiftieth year. Every seventh year, the Hebrews observed a Sabbath year.  The jubilee, being the year that followed seven times seven Sabbath years or every fiftieth year, was an extra full year of sacred rest consecrated to God. In the jubilee year (as in the Sabbath year), debts were forgiven, slaves were freed, and fields were left fallow. Social justice was renewed. Participants celebrated the presence of God and rested from mundane work.

At the age of fifty, almost fifty-one, I am celebrating just such a year of rest from mundane work. I suppose I should be freeing my slaves, forgiving any debts owed to me, and leaving my fields fallow, but given the realities of our time and culture, I have had to be creative about doing those things in different ways. For a long time, I was a slave to my job. I sacrificed a lot to it. I suppose I do feel like I have been set free from that. The debts I have worked on forgiving have been emotional ones. The fallow feilds have been areas where rest was needed.

Since I have had the privilege of not having to earn a living this year, I have found this to be a time of great creativity. Rather than focusing on performing in a job and all the stresses that go along with that, I have been able to focus on my creative energy and have followed where that has led me. It has been a wonderful experience!  I know the time will come when I will return to my work, but it will be with a jubilee perspective. I don’t fully understand what that means yet, but I suspect I will have a different sense of self and a different way of balancing my life. I have had the time to rediscover things about myself that have been buried under the stresses of my job. I suspect I will be much more creative and empowered when I do start back to some formal sort of work. I am looking forward to it!

The fields that have put food on my table for so many years have been fallow this year. My energy, creativity, empathy, and spirit are a few of those fields. My experience of fallow has not been unproductive but it has been wild and free. I would think that a fallow field might be like that. Something will always grow in a field, even a fallow or uncultivated one, but it may be untamed and unpredictable. After all, God is at work in those fields, perhaps in unexpected and delightful ways. The fruit is yet to be borne. I have no doubt that it will be abundant.

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