A Time for Sabbatical

March 23rd, 2014 / 1 Comment

I’m on sabbatical this semester, and I’ve been particularly aware of how I’m spending my time. In fact, I’ve been reflecting a great deal on what sabbaticals are supposed to do.

The idea of sabbatical arises from Christian and Jewish understandings of Sabbath. As most Christians and Jews know, Genesis 2:2-3 says that God rested on the 7th day. Throughout history, however, which precise day of the week we should consider the Sabbath has been debated. And what it means to “rest” on that day is in question.

I don’t think of Sabbath and sabbaticals as primarily a time to cease activity. Instead, I think of them as an occasion use my time differently. For me, sabbatical means leaving the routine, the usual, and what may have become a rut.

A sabbatical can shake things up so I can be renewed!

During my sabbatical, I’m focusing on things that really interest me. I want this unusual time to reenergize my passion for the things I believe matter most. And because my interests vary widely, I’m doing various things.

I actually incorporate sabbatical into my life regularly. For me, my Sabbath/sabbatical usually comes on Sundays. And they usually involve me hiking with camera in hand. Sabbath walks take me out into the wilderness, into a different environment than the one I experience in my daily life.

Not only does hiking get me out of my daily routine, these adventures allow me to spend time alone. I often pray and process my thoughts on these treks. I look for the beauty of creation and try to capture that beauty through photography. And these adventures often amount to very good exercise!

For my university sabbatical, I’m away from teaching for 4 months or so. I’m using this time to explore new ideas, converse with scholars, write… and hike!

I recently spent three weeks in the United Kingdom, giving lectures and meeting with professors and students at universities in Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Cambridge. These meetings provided the chance for me to try out my new ideas and get feedback.

I’m also co-directing a couple of conferences, one on evolution/origins in San Diego and another on Wesley and culture in Nampa. Organizing conferences takes a ton of work, but I find satisfaction in knowing these events prompt attendees to love God more deeply with their minds. I see conference directing as an act of loving service.

In March, I spent a couple weeks in a remote Wyoming cabin. During this time, I wrote on God’s loving providence in the midst of the world’s randomness and evil. I brought books and plenty of tea to keep me alert!

Of course, I can’t write a whole book in two weeks, and I’ll continue writing in earnest until the fall. So far, the writing is going well!

I’m thankful that my educational institution, Northwest Nazarene University, cares about the emotional and intellectual well-being of its professors. Of course, I think there’s continued room for improvement. But I believe students benefit from instructors who aren’t burned out and who are abreast of the latest developments in their fields of expertise.

Students are more likely to catch the passion for a particular idea or subject if their sabbatical-renewed professors are also passionate!

I see sabbaticals as part of the lifelong learning I think all Christian leaders must pursue. None of us has it all figured out. And there’s always more to learn. Getting away for a day, a week, a month, or longer can be a powerful way to educate ourselves for our own good and the good of those to whom we minister.

So here’s to “rest” – recreation, rejuvenation, and learning anew. And to making some new photos!

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Ben Duarte

Enjoy your sabbatical Dr. Oord. I miss our occasional coffee and theology chat in Nampa, Idaho. Rest well.

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