This blog has been quiet for a while, mostly because I've been on sabbatical for a good part of the summer. Let me tell you all about it!
- As I thought about being off work for a number of weeks, I felt some pressure (self-imposed) that I should justify this time away with some sort of work-related project that I could report back on. And, I would've have no problem whatsoever coming up with a very long list of topics that would allow me to hideout behind a stack of books for the entire sabbatical! But, I felt like my brain needed a break from the constant input of theology, philosophy, and the like and that I should challenge myself in a different way. So, while I did in fact read a lot, almost all of it was fiction, and I instead challenged myself physically. This meant trying to push myself over an exercise plateau as well as starting (and finishing!) a number of multi-step projects on the homefront...
- In July I spent a few days in Central Oregon and on a whim decided to climb Mt. Bachelor. I have climbed exactly zero mountains in my life, but being in at least halfway-decent shape, alongside a regular man-sized ego, I thought a climb like this was not only attainable but would take no more than a few hours. It took nearly six! While Bachelor is only 9000 feet or so, between the parking lot and the summit are hundreds of switchbacks and many many inclines which to this Alabama-boy felt very mountainy! I really had to push myself to keep going. But, upon returning home, after a few days rest, I found that running around Portland wasn't so difficult and I began to add miles to my normal routes...
- This morning, after waking up earlier than expected, I had some free time and felt like running. I kept on going. Not like Forrest Gump kept on going but I ran a full 10K. I haven't exercised in the morning in years, and I haven't run 6.2 miles in well over a decade. But, having pushed myself beyond what I thought my limits were at Bachelor, I figured "why not?"
- But, it wasn't just the focused exercise that helped. I also started a backyard project with my dad and spent two days in June laying heavy stone pavers and after we got done with that I just kept on going and renovated the entire back yard. There wasn't a square foot of dirt that wasn't touched in some way and so most of June involved hours and hours of shoveling dirt, pushing a wheelbarrow around, and carrying large bags of mulch and rocks. Not only did I feel like I was getting stronger every week, it was surprising to me just how intellectually-stimulating this project was (See: Shop Class as Soulcraft for more on this) and how in using a different part of my brain that I felt energized and rested at the same time.
- The runnin', the yard workin', and mountain climbin' were great achievements of course, but I'm not sharing this so that you'll come see my new backyard (but please do come see it!) but because these things felt like symptoms of having previously sought a deeper rest well before I took a sabbatical. You see, today I ran 6.2 miles and that's pretty cool, but today I'm also 9 months sober.
- This last part isn't "news" to everyone, I've shared bits and pieces of my journey with alcohol in a few settings, but I haven't shared broadly that I am pursuing sobriety because I had a problem. I started moderating and reducing back in early 2017 but I realized after a while that this was too much work and decided last fall that I wanted to make a deeper change. That's another post, or 10, because the process wasn't that simple, nor entirely self-motivated, but I can't share about my sabbatical without recognizing that its rejuvenative effects were founded upon a deeper and more profound rest that came with giving up alcohol. Honestly, I can't imagine that 9 weeks off work would have done much of anything if I was still drinking regularly. (Side note: many of you have asked me how much weight I've lost, and the answer is "I don't really know", but however many kilos I've dropped, it's not entirely due to simply exercising more but mostly to removing significant amounts of hops and barley from my diet!)
So, to all you Intowners out there reading this, thank you for not only being a church that values its pastor's spiritual health enough to grant me some significant rest time, but also for being the kind of community which feels safe enough to share something like this. We're all "people in process" and your pastor is no different. I'm so privileged to be sharing this journey with you.