Sabbatical Voyeur

Sabbatical Voyeur April 30, 2008

I’m surprised by my feelings, since I have years of experience dealing with this very thing.

My experience, of course, comes from growing up in the same family system as my sister, Maile, who was then very popular, captain of the cheerleading squad and homecoming queen and is now gorgeous, mother of 4 children whom she homeschools, and devoted wife who makes her husband’s lunch every morning. For years I have wanted to hate her, or at least live with some degree of self-righteous indignation, but the problem is that my sister is possibly the nicest person on the entire planet, totally and completely undeserving of my resentment.

It’s just so unfair.

Anyway, similar feelings emerged when I met Heather Entrekin. Heather is a former member of Calvary who is now pastor at Prairie Baptist Church in Kansas and is currently taking sabbatical time to read, reflect and think about the church from the outside in. In order to do that, Heather has found an apartment in DC’s Chinatown and is immersing herself in the life of the city and the rhythms of Calvary’s congregational life.

My initial response to hearing of Heather’s plans was to wonder aloud why on earth she’d want to spend time here at Calvary while on sabbatical. My secondary and more gut-wrenching response was a huge and overwhelming wave of envy, which has only gotten bigger as I’ve watched Heather take art classes at the Smithsonian, devour books I’ve been wanting to read, stroll through Eastern Market deciding on the fly what to cook for dinner, etc., etc., etc.

I just have to say: dealing with my envy would be so much easier if Heather were mean. Or stuck up. Or ugly or not too smart or clearly not very spiritual.

The problem is, when you meet Heather you can tell instantly she is the exact opposite of all these things. She’s nice and friendly. She’s a really good listener. She’s very calm and self-possessed. She has a soft and comforting voice that she uses to speak truth and also claim the work of God in the world. She’s not starry-eyed about ministry; she cries right along with you. And she has great ideas about text and faith and community and church.

I think I am going to have to put her in the lofty category my sister inhabits, in fact.  But I won’t stop being jealous.  The truth is: watching Heather soak up the joy of solitude and reflection is enough to make me drool (if only I had time).

Because I can’t hate her and I can’t join her, what I’ve decided is that I will become a sabbatical voyeur, peering into Heather’s experience and trying to remember to find little pockets of sabbatical wherever I can and taking moments to (if breathlessly) thank God (again) for bringing another wonderful colleague and friend to walk alongside for a little while.

Join me in peering over Heather’s shoulder as she experiences sabbatical!

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