Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ebb and Flow - Rolling with the Tide

I’m still not good at sabbath.

I am trying. But I am still not good at it.

For the past several weeks reading – basically every day – I have read an article or two about the role sabbath – in various contemporary contexts and writings. I will plan to pull excerpts and “clippings” from these readings to post to this shared blog soon.

My fellowship opportunity for this summer has me in Thailand – relatively free of most concerns "back home" (though I miss my family terribly and am cognizant of all my wife is doing to support my time away. But, I feel as harried – and maybe more harried here away from family compared when I am at home. I realize that much of that has to do with the way I establish my own goals and expectations – and that is making me mindful of the need to be mindful (!) in setting sabbath goals – and in setting my own life expectations. I am especially being attuned to the fact that I need to not “schedule” so much of my time and leave more time for “freedom” and “space.”

As I am here though, I realize that I had *planned* to “get a lot of work done” while here.

I brought numerous books – in hard-copy and on my Kindle device.

I have several writing projects (most of them big projects, not just blog entries!) that I want to focus on. And, while I had expected to be in a study program while here – for that is why I came – my experiences in other summer fellowships led me to think that this summer would be – like other summers – a morning of shared lecture/study/conversation – followed by an afternoon for reading and research – with evenings mostly free.

After nearly three weeks now here, though, I have come up against the brutal reality that my study program here is from 8:30 to nearly 5:00 – every work day. I find myself spending more time sitting in a classroom – for hours per day – than I have spent “sitting” “in the classroom” since I left High School! In no field of study or in no occupation I have had for some 2 decades have I been “sitting” for more than 3-4 hours per day – and this has me in class and at lunch sitting for eight hours a day – everyday!

On the one hand that means, obviously, that I’m “just sitting” – but it also means that where I had planned to have time to structure my own reading and research for 4-5 hours every afternoon – those hours have been “taken” from me – at least taken from what I had expected. That means I’ve “lost” some 20 hours per week that I had planned to use for the “projects” of my summer.

Needless to say, this has forced me to recalibrate my plans and expectations.

For most of the past three weeks I have felt frustrated and anxious – feeling like I am literally losing my hours!

But, today, while I intentionally took time to Sabbath – I was able to hit my “reset” button. I was able to reflect on what I can do – and can’t do. What I can control – and what I can’t control. What I can realistically expect – and what I can’t plan for. And I have recognized that I need to take my projects and ‘step back’ from the goals on time – and focus on the goal of making progress over time – instead of toward a specific deadline!

I still want to advance in my goals. But I do not need to force arbitrary or contrived deadlines on them. They are *my* projects and what is most important is not that I get them done with stress and tension – but that I learn to plug away on them with attentive awareness to the fact that they are but one small part of the large scope and breadth of my life.

I need to learn better to “go with the flow” and “ebb with the tides” of life.
Today has been a good sabbath. I needed that.

Oh, and it helped that I was literally “going with the flow” and “ebbing with the tide” as the waves of the Gulf of Thailand pushed me back and forth in the water – at the beach at Hua-Hin, Thailand. Thank you, LORD, for the surf. The sea always reminds me of the largeness of Your Creation and the smallness of my petty concerns and worries.

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