Prodigal Pilgrim: #reentry

For the past six glorious months I’ve been on sabbatical. It was truly a gift—paid time off, sent and blessed by my employer, protected time away from the daily responsibilities of my job to disconnect and rest. I had a plan in place to make sure the end result was a new and improved me, rested and restored—but as I “left” for sabbatical, people asked me what I was going to do with all my time.

Kathy_KhangNothing. I was going to “do” nothing. The entire point of the sabbatical was to cease, yet the question about filling my time was so culturally appropriate and telling as a Christian in America.

Ceasing the regular rhythms of work to move into an extended period of rest took more than a few days to fully embrace, a detox period of tying up loose ends and acknowledging the addiction to being busy and informed. However, once the initial shock to the system wore off, I began to notice a few things.

I noticed my body and soul were tired. We Americans are sleep deprived. Technology, with its hand-held devices adding portability and connectivity, only adds to the problem, with glowing screens destroying boundaries between where and when we work or read. Once upon a time I was sleep-deprived because I had young children, and I had to wait for the dial-up modem before I could check email on the desktop computer. Now my children are much older, and my sleep-deprivation is my own doing. I had chipped away at the margins of my already limited time with God and filled it in with…actually, I’m not sure what.

So in the ceasing of sabbatical, I rested. Pajamas became my uniform made easier by the cold, unceasing winter, which allowed me to drive my sons around in my serious winter coat—a hooded, zippered, sleeved down. Steve Jobs had his black mockneck and jeans. I had a rotation of pajamas.

I noticed that the little things that irritated me, like emotional pebbles in my shoe, were too many in number. The micro-aggressions never met with the grace I preached, the righteous indignation covering my envy, the restlessness rooted in deep dissatisfaction—the little things were all parts of a big thing. I had begun to believe God had forgotten me, and I was crazy tired from working so hard to make God notice me.

Carrying all that stuff around turned out to be exhausting. So I spent time with the junk in my mind, heart, and soul. It’s not all unpacked. We all carry some baggage, but I threw out some junk, and decluttered what’s left—a little lighter, cleaner, neater for another day.

I also noticed the silence was loud. I’m an extrovert and an external processor, so by myself I am noisy. But during the day no one is home, and in sabbatical there were no phone calls, video calls, or face-to-face meetings. I would grab my coffee, light a candle, and sit in the silence. But the voices in my head had competing agendas with running commentary. My soul was crying, laughing, sighing, whining. My silence, deafening.

So I did what I don’t like to do. I gave in and gave up. I sat in the noisy silence, which I’m sure you have figured out by now was entangled with the exhaustion and junk. I did nothing but wait for things to quiet down enough to hear from God. In truth, I couldn’t hear God any louder or clearer. But my heart and soul didn’t lurch in worry. God was near. Is near. And so I am back to work, wearing a post-sabbatical glow—one part rest and one part “I don’t know/care because I haven’t read the email.” I’m not filling whatever margins of time have been created. I am still. I am at rest. cc

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About the Author

Kathy Khang is a writer, speaker, and coffee drinker who works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and attends Libertyville (Illinois) Covenant Church with her family. She is one of the authors of More Than Serving Tea, a book that addresses the intersection of faith, gender, and ethnicity from the perspective of Asian American women. She has a weak spot for nail polish, books, and writing utensils. She blogs at morethanservingtea.wordpress.com.

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