Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What to do when there's nothing to do

Psalm 48:9-10 (NIV)

Within your temple, O God,
   we meditate on your unfailing love.
Like your name, O God,
   your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
   your right hand is filled with righteousness.
We count among our dear friends one of our church’s associate pastors, his wonderful wife and their adorable daughter, who is six months to the day older than Charlie. As of the end of Sunday he is on a sabbatical for most of the next three months. There will be lots of travel involved, both for personal and professional reasons, all of it centered around a lifetime of faith. I’m very happy for them as they embark on what surely will be a series of journeys that build a lifetime of memories.

Since the couple is close to ours in age, and our children are very similar in size, my mind has wandered over the last few days to what exactly I would do if he opportunity for a sabbatical came my direction.

I need to suspend some disbelief. With Kristie firmly in the second trimester of pregnancy, not to mention the three boys to consider, we’re not up for anything like our friends’ ambitious itinerary. And not only have I not been at my day job as long as my pal (me roughly four years, he more than seven) my line of work does not lend itself to the kind of experiences the word sabbatical conjures for a pastor or academic. There were some times in my journalism career when I thought about special projects I could only undertake if given total freedom from my regular responsibilities, but there’s not enough of me in that world any more to fully form any such thoughts.

There are plenty of things I would like to do. I am painfully behind on editing and blogging of family photos. Our DVR is nearly crushed under the weight of all the shows I need to finish watching. I could spend all of tomorrow’s sunlight pulling weeds and stray grass from our yard. Both cars could stand to be cleaned inside and out. If we could offload the kids, Kristie and I could spend the better part of a week sorting all the old clothes we have for the boys and getting them ready for summer, which appears determined to stick around for a few months.

But that’s just a to-do list. And while it’s only the tip of that particular iceberg, those projects certainly aren’t the sort of thing you’re supposed to do during a sabbatical. It might feel good to cross off a few items, but they’re not going to offer a sense of renewal or get me back in touch with my original motivations and goals. Especially since most of the things on my to-do list are only temporary fixes: I’m always taking new pictures, the weeds come right back, the cars never stay clean for more than a few days.

I suppose I could take a few months off from writing, but I’d have to replace the time I spend each day with reading something of similar relevance. I can’t think of anywhere I’d especially need to go, though we do have long-term goals of visiting relatives in Montana and San Francisco some time before Jack graduates high school. But we’ve got nine years to squeeze in one or both of those adventures.

In the end, I can’t waste too much time and energy dreaming about this sort of thing — it’s just not in the cards, nor does it need to be. But I will spend some time thinking and praying about our friends, that this time and the experiences they’ve planned will do exactly what they hope. Our congregation and especially worship experiences will be noticeably altered by their absence. And really, no one needs a specified time away from the office to praise God to the ends of the Earth.

Life is what we make of it regardless of circumstance. I just try to do my best every day. Some are better than others, which is a truth I’ve come to accept with the same gladness I accept the gift of life itself. To God be the glory.

A prayer for May 29:

Lord, thank you for the quiet moments in each day when I can reflect on life and the people who make a difference to me. Thank you for guiding my thoughts, for listening when I come to you and for the peace that washes over me when difficulties arise. Grant that I may never forget the value of a little time spent in solitude, the worth of a few quick seconds of prayer. Let me not be alone in trying to praise your name far and wide. Amen.

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