Holy Week 2021

I didn't intentionally choose this week to begin my sabbatical. A collection of external factors coincided to make this the right time. I only realized this coincidence would be true a couple of days ago.

But it feels good. Around the world, this is a week of holidays for Christians. In some contexts, secular holidays - schools and businesses are closed. In other contexts, the procession from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, with special rituals of remembrance on each day in between.
• • •
Holy Monday was the overturning of the tables in the temple. A challenge to unjust economic systems. For me, this time of rest and creative activity feels like a direct challenge to the economic structures of our day. For me, this ten week period feels like a sabbath season. A time to make right the patterns of my life. 8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what we will.

What do I will? And perhaps, not what I will, but what God wills. Not God's agents on Earth, not the church, not the government, but the Holy Creator, Source of All Wisdom, Beauty, Goodness. Not Caesar.

My main plan for this week is to begin by writing every day. To go swimming several days. And to schedule all the appointments that I put off until now. A haircut, a mammogram, new glasses, and more. It may take my whole sabbatical season to get to them all.

I already scheduled two - a deep cleaning for our house and our car. These fall into the category of things I could do for myself. However other people will be more efficient and right now I would rather pay someone to do it well and get it over with and not be exhausted when it is done. It will free me to think about other things instead of fretting about the housework. This goes against all my home training, but for once, I think it will be a good tradeoff.
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Later in the week, Maundy Thursday is a reminder about community and service to others. Will I find ways, during this sabbatical season that overlaps with the Covid19 pandemic, to break bread with others and wash their feet? As a serious extrovert, I need to talk to other people for my own mental health. And as a human being and a Christian, I need to be of service to other people. Also for my own mental health. But I also need to practice some discipline around "custody of the eyes". The main purpose of this break is to bring forth that which is in me - to give to the world that which only I can give. Not to spend the time reading what other people have already written.

But recognizing the enormous privilege of having ten weeks in a row of paid leave, without even a newborn baby to take care of, I want to find some way to be of practical service to the community around me in this time as well.
• • •
Holy Friday and Saturday are about dying to self and waiting in the deep unknown. Am I able to give over my own longing to know or do or be anything and sink down to that seed that God sows in the heart? And to let that seed grow in me and breathe in me and be in me without striving to make myself more? For that seed to increase, I must decrease. In my striving and my desire for control and for fame and fortune and, and, and... everything. Not my will, Lord, but thine.

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Then next Sunday, I will be going away. To an undisclosed location. For a week of self-denial of other people and the freedom to just write. A rebirth in some ways, maybe more like extended labor. I don't think it tracks to a resurrection. I'm afraid it's going to feel more like an extended Holy Saturday.

But we'll see. What freedom comes in that emptiness? What new inspirati­on or motivation? What will I be able to produce under those conditions? I have no idea.

Seventeen years ago, I went away for a solo retreat for a weekend. At that point in my life, what I most needed was for no one to touch me for 48 hours. I literally had to wean the baby in order to go away. The writing was just a serendipitous byproduct. But my life has changed ever since. And that baby is 19 years old now.

One of the things people keep telling me is not to have too high of expectations for myself in this sabbatical season. To not feel like I have to fill it with any particular kind of productivity or to set too concrete of a goal. That has been helpful advice.

But I am trying to establish the conditions for creative output to be possible.

I am trying to leave margins of time and energy to do what feels right in the moment.

To seek God's guidance in each day, each moment. And then to follow that guidance wherever or however it may lead.

• • •
This is the way.

That would be enough.


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