Well, last May I finished my middler year (2nd of 3) of seminary physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. It seems that all that doing had affected my well-being. And, to be honest, I wasn't doing very well at all. Junior year had led straight to CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education, basically an internship as a hospital chaplain), which had led straight to middler year--with hardly any time in between. For someone who has trouble saying no, and, as a result, has poor time management, having hardly any breaks built into to my schedule for me meant that I didn't really take time off. And because of that, things in my life started to fall apart. Life got exponentially harder, and I began to lose sight of myself. In this dark place I began to wonder what the heck I was doing here and what the purpose of it all was. Luckily, I recognized the signs of downward spiraling before I hit rock bottom, and with the support of some friends and my family (who also recognized the signs), got the help I needed. By the time May came around I was on my way to recovery, but life still had a lackluster hue.
Whether intentionally or because they are currently in transition, my diocese does not require anything of seminarians in the summer between middler and senior years. This ended up being a gift and a much-needed blessing for me. I slept, ate, watched all the episodes of the modern Dr. Who (currently in its 5th season), read for pleasure, played music, took lots of pictures, preached some, was a camp counselor for a week, went on a mission trip, and visited friends and family. In short, I took time to do things that I loved and only did what I wanted to do. And as the summer wore on, the layers of grime that had covered up my life began to wear away, revealing a colorful mosaic beneath it. I began to love life again but more importantly, I began to love myself. I returned to campus for my final (!) year of school refreshed, my faith restored, and full of joy and a new-found self-confidence. There's a fire in my belly and a song in my soul.
Now, in all likelihood, I won't get summers off every year. So it will be up to me to sprinkle little sabbaths throughout the year, making sure I do things for me. I guess that's part of growing up--getting to know (and love) yourself well enough that you take time to tend to your own needs, because *newsflash* no one is going to do it for you. Yes, I might miss out on a group activity here and there (there will be others). Yes, I might have to let people down now and then (it's bound to happen anyway). But, ultimately, I will be healthier, happier, more whole and a whole lot more pleasant to be around. This unassuming little commandment might just be one of the most important things I have learned in seminary.
Some sabbath pictures from this summer:
Harry Potter and the beach: a winning combination.
Taking time to enjoy the sunrise at Holden Beach, NC...
...and boy, is it glorious
Grandfather Mountain, Boone, NC
Butterfly Garden on Grandfather Mountain
View from the mile-high "swinging" bridge