Joyful Noise: The Discipline of Sabbatical

(c) 2016 || www.studiomathewes.com

(c) 2016 || www.studiomathewes.com

Since making the transition to self-employment over seven years ago, I’ve continued to struggle with the idea of sabbatical—a mandated time where time off is dedicated for rest and worship and re-centering of life. I struggle with it daily (turning off the electronics, or just putting my feet up for a bit). I struggle with it weekly (making sure I carve out a day for restoration and freedom from obligation). And I struggle with it over the course of months and years (ensuring that our family can have togetherness in faith, work, and leisure).

I’ve tried a wide variety of ways to manage this–protecting a certain day of the week from “work,” telling my clients I am unavailable for a particular week, scheduling vacations far in advance–but I still struggled with the blurry boundaries of working from home, and from being able to set my own schedule.

But all these solutions (chosen and attempted with good intention) were inspired by other people’s lives that didn’t match the rhythms of what my family actually experienced. What I’ve come to realize is that as Christians, especially Orthodox Christians our very calendar sets us apart. The traditional school year (or even the year-round school system that my children are a part of) have schedules and vacations that are in no way inspired or synchronized to the season of modern activity, let alone religious practice. Government holidays fall at times that aren’t particularly meaningful to our faith. Participating actively in the Christian calendar of fasting, feasting, and liturgy is an action of the Christian life meant to remind us that we are not of this world.

So as our family has grown and as my awareness of the need for true Christian sabbatical has deepened, my practice has changed. Attending the Sunday liturgy was a given from the beginning. Early on, I had ensured to carve out space around the time of the great feasts (Pascha & Nativity). Then came carving out the time for the as well as for the occasional weekday liturgy feast. Then a vespers or two.

And so my calendar has grown every so slowly more close to the church’s calendar. I still get pulled away from church activities—there are plenty of extracurriculars available for all members of the family to fill their time with things completely unrelated to worship and to our faith. Some of it is unavoidable, but much of it is a conscious choice that I can make. We are more in control of our calendars than we realize, but it’s often hard to give up freedom of choosing whatever we find entertaininng. The discipline of returning to the church calendar and shaping sabbaticals around the feasts and fasts has made my work outside the church and family life all the more meaningful.

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