During the final three weeks of January I took a break from my day job to focus on another kind of work. For the past few years I have been working toward the completion of a Master's degree at The University of Kansas in Religious Studies. My focus has been religious ethics, and the topic of my thesis project has been the debate in The United Methodist Church on human sexuality in general, homosexuality in particular. My task has been to map the landscape, identify points of disagreement, critique the terms of the debate, and to suggest possibilities for the future of the discourse. If you know anything about religious studies as an academic discipline, you will know that arguments cannot be made theologically. Therefore, I'm outside of my passion, and, as an insider (of sorts) within Methodism, I have faced a conundrum of sorts. In no way have I attempted to solve the problem within the church, though my conclusions might help others working on the issue. My study has been fruitful, I believe, and after plenty of manuscript work, I think I'm nearing completion of an initial draft. At that point, the future will be determined by my committee.
My break from my job with the bus company was good. I was able to focus my thoughts, crank out some words, read and research my topic further, and solidify the direction my study was heading. This has been a blessing. The work that I'm doing is incredibly hard, not only because it relates directly to the Christian community of which I am now part, but because those that engage with the topic hold such deep and passionate convictions. I haven't brought up my area of focus too often for this very reason, as any discussion on this particular matter takes care, time, and patience. It's more complex than anyone might realize, and therefore isn't something that can be discussed in passing. Space for conversation is needed, listening is required, and a willingness to reason together is critical.
After spending time primarily within the realm of ideas, it was good to return to my work. I still have to solve problems at work, but the problems aren't quite as complex.
While I took my time off, I couldn't help but wonder if there were others who had the freedom and flexibility to do the same. Most of us take vacation, but in those cases the goal is to relax. During my sabbatical from bus driving, my objective was to write and research. In doing so, I was refreshed and renewed for my work, both in the form of my day job, and in my efforts to blog, research, and continue to write. It is as though I was able to reserve some energy to then pour forth upon my return to the normal rhythm of my life.
If you're able, I'd recommend taking a sabbatical, of sorts, with some regularity. Perhaps it is five minutes of doing absolutely nothing at the end of the day and allowing your mind to go where it will so that your thoughts can naturally evaluate and gravitate toward new ideas. Perhaps it is an entire day where you put aside your regular routine. Or perhaps it is like my case, where I took a full three weeks from work to shift gears to something else entirely.
Give it a try.