Embarking on a Sabbatical That Makes My Heart Sing

When the summer of 2023 arrives, I will have served on the staff of Schweitzer for eleven years. For the first time in my tenure, I will be taking a Sabbatical – from June 4 through September 4.

Initially, when asked about taking a sabbatical, I was reluctant. It had not crossed my mind. Then I began to reassess. Holy Scripture (Lev. 25.3-5), Christian tradition, and the personnel policy of Schweitzer recommend a Sabbatical, an extended season of rest, every seven years. A Sabbatical is meant to be a space for rest, leading to a renewal in trusting the Lord, and a refreshed vision. Reflecting on some of my comments from the previous year, I had found Ruth Haley Barton’s description fitting: “Leaders are human too, somehow accumulating levels of exhaustion lost to our awareness as we fail to recognize the toll [work] is taking.” (Reference: Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest; From Sabbath to Sabbatical and back again. IVP, 2022.)

As I recalled some of my musings, it became obvious, now is a good time for some much-needed Rest, Renewal, and Refreshed Vision.

In composing a Sabbatical plan, my first thought was of an extended time for research and writing. Yet as I read more about the topic, Barton suggested a different approach, it should be “a time of physical and spiritual renewal, which encompasses rest, spiritual direction, and other activities that are restorative and life-giving.”

Additionally, I encountered a riveting question posed by the Lilly Endowment; “What makes your heart sing?” The question points to the purpose: to embark on a Sabbatical that makes one’s heart sing with the old and new wine of the Lord (Matthew 9:9-17).

My sabbatical plan does in fact attempt this and is comparable to a song with three movements.

Movement I

Reconnecting with Family – June. I have two kids celebrating graduations. Being fully present in their celebrations and helping with transitions to their next will be important.

Movement II

Finding Delight; Travel and Research – July. I plan to travel to Chicago, Michigan, and New York, exploring churches and ministries that could be helpful for some of Schweitzer’s next steps. Walking the beach in Michigan will be delightful.

Movement III

Pay Attention; Care for the Soul – August. A quiet retreat to a St. Meinrad’s Seminary in Indiana is a great place to listen afresh to the voice of the Lord.

The Sound Beneath – daily and weekly practices. Daily practices for the summer include running or biking, and practicing the three prayer hours of a day. Weekly, I plan to write a personal journal piece, as well as being present in worship in various contexts.

There are at least three ways I see this experience benefiting Schweitzer: 1) Being rested and renewed enables life- giving ideas; 2) Field research builds networks of counsel for strategic kingdom endeavors; and 3) My absence will open opportunities for others to have experience in leading.

You might miss seeing Jason around campus this summer, but you can still listen to him as part of a new podcast series called, “Really Cool People.” This was inspired by a series of many events that prompted him to want to interview some people who have lived a lot of life and impacted a lot of people but are not considered “famous.” You’ll love hearing each story. Tune in wherever you find your podcasts.

Our Technical Director, Taylor Likes, is also taking a Sabbatical this summer. Click here to read about his plans.

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