A little over 8 months ago, I zipped my new backpack closed for the final time before stepping on a plane to Glasgow. I’d been scribbling lists, packing and re-packing, leaving out all but the very essentials, scrunching my forehead over seemingly endless decisions. Finally, it was time to leave for the airport.A photo right before we left to drop me at the airport. I was excited. And terrified.
Sabbaticals are a time of rest, but they are also meant to refresh and refocus. This involves purposely getting out of your comfort zone.
Sabbath involves risk, and you can’t take a risk without letting go of control, of expectations, of comfort, of where God will take you.
In the photo above, I felt like I was flinging myself into oblivion and I had no clue how I would cope with it all. I second-guessed everything from my packing to my planning to my abilities to my mental health.
*I was getting on a plane by myself for an international flight. I hadn’t been on an international flight since 1998. I had never been on an international flight alone. I don’t like to fly. (Though my hours logged on flights over the sabbatical certainly helped condition me to manage planes and airports!)
*I was leaving my husband at home for a week with our kids, trusting him to manage finishing the school year, getting them ready for time with my sister, and preparing himself for an international flight and 2 weeks in Europe with me. I hated leaving him with so much on his plate, though I knew he was more than capable of coordinating it all.
*I was leaving my kids for 3 weeks, across an ocean, the longest time I had ever been away from them, and traveling the farthest distance that had ever separated us.
*I was sending my kids to my sister’s home for 2 weeks. Before that day, I hadn’t been away from them overnight for 2 years. They had never stayed overnight, without me, at my sister’s home. I knew they would be in excellent hands. Yet I was filled with mom worries–would they eat? Would they sleep ok? Would they get sick? Would they cry for me? (Answers: Yes. Yes. No. And not once, though my husband I shed a few, missing them!)
*I was traveling internationally all by myself for a week. I had to exchange money, find my hotel, feed myself, negotiate jet lag, and travel to a remote Scottish island–on my own. A reminder: I hadn’t traveled internationally in 18 years and I had never done it alone.
I didn’t know if I could do it.
But I did.
Fast-forward to this photo:
This is me, on my second day in Glasgow. I love this photo because it captures my sheer joy at accomplishing a huge feat–conquering self-doubt and fear, if only for that trip.
And remembering who I used to be, and who I am: adventurous.
A dear friend since our high school days, whom I hadn’t connected with in a while, sent me a message while I was in Glasgow. We shared trips and experiences together over the years, and she wrote to wish me well on my travels. She told me of a dream she had the night before where she was at a party and spotted me across a room–though in the dream I was a stranger to her–and thought, “I need to go over and talk to her! She’s someone I want as a friend!”
It was an acknowledgement of one of the profound gifts of my sabbatical: the gift of reawakening parts of myself I had forgotten, or pushed aside. Because life does that, doesn’t it? Years go by and we forget to do the hard things, to let go and trust ourselves, to have faith in who we are in God.
Through our risk-taking together throughout last summer, my family grew in confidence too. Blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace.
My sabbatical time was sheer grace, an opportunity many don’t get to experience. And your risk-taking may look very different than mine. (It may not be world travel.) Your adventures will be your own. Your risk-taking may be finding happiness where you are, in this moment and place. It may be mending a relationship. It may be reaching out, speaking your mind, accepting your body, admitting a truth.
We can’t forget that part of faith–and yes, part of sabbath–is risk-taking. Spirituality involves trust and a willingness to see where God will lead you. It’s not always comfortable.
But it’s good.
What kind of risks do you need to take today? What parts of yourself do you need to reawaken? Where is God calling you?