Heeding the sabbatical call.

Planning for sabbatical is a two-fold endeavor. On one hand, it is all head—logistics, timing, finances. On the other, it’s all heart—intuition, discernment, intention, preparation.

The head part is all practical, and honestly, it’s pretty easy to work out once you’ve made the commitment. It might not happen overnight, nearly 18 months in my case, but you can chart the path and start making progress against your goals. That’s a whole other blog.

The heart part is a journey unto itself.

Some of it happens in preparation; some of it is only work you can do when you have stepped out of the boat.

I’ll barely crack the surface in one blog. Honestly, this started to get really long, so I’m just going to highlight intuition and discernment in this post, hit intention and preparation in the next, and hopefully continue to work out these themes in future blogs.

In the 18+ months before I actually embarked on my sabbatical, I prayed. A lot. I’m aware of the blessing and privilege of even being able to do something like take time off from work, and I don’t take the responsibility of that blessing lightly.

I felt the call to sabbatical, but I didn’t want to throw up my hands and walk out on my job (although I do think God can work through that if you do end up going the light-everything-on-fire route). I wanted to do right by my employer, my teams, and myself. I also wanted to be really intentional about how I spent my time.

A sabbatical, however long it is, is a finite season. Its purpose should be to bring forth the work on the other side of it, to sow seeds in rest that you’ll harvest for years. And a month, three months, six months, or a year can fly by you.


Intuition is the whisper of the Holy Spirit, although you may be more comfortable calling it a gut feeling. Sometimes, the whisper tells you to steer clear of a person or place. Sometimes, the whisper nudges you to reach out to someone who pops into your head over and over. Sometimes, the whisper beckons you out, right to the edge of the shore. It tells you to leave behind the safe place because there is so much more if you’re willing to choose trust over fear.

But listening to your intuition, hearing that holy whisper is work that takes silence and space. Listening takes stillness in our surroundings and in our beings. You won’t hear it if you’re drowning it out with a constant flood of intake—Netflix, a packed schedule, too much wine.

It takes learning to be alone with yourself, and being willing to turn inward and heed what you hear.

A lot of times it feels scary. There’s nothing of what our society values in terms of science or data that will prove your intuition is right. But the wild thing about a life marked by faith is that it looks like one insane leap after another. And once you hear, the responsibility shifts to you. You’ve been told what to do, no matter how risky it seems, will you listen? What will you do?

For me, I felt in my being that I needed more space, to not have my calendar dictated by work, to be able to think and listen. I wanted to write more, sing more, learn, and adventure, do the things that give me joy and fill my being. I’m increasingly convinced that we can build things in this life that last into the next. I think that’s what purpose really is—doing the work we were created to do, to which we can uniquely contribute to building things that last. I want to do that work, but the first step was wild submission—sabbatical.


Discernment is about confirmation and direction. It’s also one of those spiritual words that can seem really vague and amorphous. Basically, it’s the phase where you know your intuition is screaming at you, but you’re still not sure. So let’s go ahead and ask over and over if this is actually what I’m supposed to do. Or maybe that’s just me.

Again, prayer, seeking silence, and creating space to just be and listen are critical. Discernment really is about the push and pull between doubt and determination. And it’s hard to be determined when you can’t hear with your heart.

What’s funny is how simple the elements of seeking guidance are, and how hard they are for us to into practice in our busy, distracted world.

I recommend developing a daily and weekly rhythm of centering. My own morning routine revolutionized my whole life. Every morning, I wake, make tea, read two chapters of the Bible, and pray. I also try to move my body every morning in some form or fashion—class, Peloton, walk, yoga. It takes continual discipline, but sticking to this routine has actually created so much more expansiveness in my life for curiosity and discerning. When I started my morning routine, it was wake, make tea, read a quick devotional, and occasionally pray.

Just start somewhere… maybe it’s wake and sit in stillness for five minutes before you move onto anything else—no phone, email, or rushing straight to start the day—five minutes to pause, be present, and hold space.

Discerning direction really is an ongoing work. Because unfortunately, you can’t discern once and be like, I’m done! All good!

I’m blessed to have some really wise mentors and friends in my life who were willing to ask smart questions and then listen while I worked it out. And I also found it helpful to work with a spiritual director.

Keep asking questions, listening, and writing down what you hear. It’s like putting down a few stones a day at a time on your path. When you start, it’s a handful of stones, but after months and years, you’ve built a path that leads to oceans, mountains, deserts, rivers, to faraway places and hearths around the corner. It’s amazing how it starts to accrue to something you never would have thought at the beginning. And how an insight you write down years ago suddenly crystallizes and connects everything together in your present.

Why sabbatical?

Telling people about my sabbatical has been fascinating.

Friends and family will start with excitement, but then immediately ask when I’m going back to work.

And I usually say something annoyingly noncommittal like, probably in 8-12 months. I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m taking at least eight months off.

Partly, I don’t know what will unfold during this time, and I want to allow for the mystery of allowing for something I can’t foresee. I might take some project work, but that’s about it.

This creates some confusion. So they ask, your job is okay with you just being gone for that long? Because there are rules, lots of rules in the lives we lead. And this seems like a trick.

No, I left my job.

Then it’s usually something like what my neighbor said to me, “oh, so you’re not really on sabbatical, you’re just calling it that.”

Not quite. No, this is a sabbatical. But then they are in for a pretty long-winded explanation.

Culturally, I get that. Sabbatical in western cultures is common in an academic setting, but not so much in a corporate one.

In a corporate context, it can look a lot like it did at my former firm. After seven years, they offered six paid weeks off for sabbatical. In Europe, that’s just called a decent holiday.

Other corporations offer some longer form of sabbatical time. Starbucks, for example, allows for a “coffee break” after 10 years of service—six months unpaid with a guaranteed job on your return. I think that gets closer to the actual intention of sabbatical.

Sabbatical finds its roots biblically, whether we recognize it or not. And the roots are in sabbath, or shabbat—which in Hebrew mean “to stop” or “to cease [from work].” There’s also an interesting tie to the word sheva, which is “seven,” which is a biblical symbol of wholeness or completeness.

Humans and creation live in cycles—days, weeks, months, seasons, years, decades, centuries, millennia.

Every seven days for those of us who have a sabbath practice, we shabbat—we stop—and we rest and nestle in to all that’s been given. In the busyness of our modern context, it’s hard to think of stopping work, not getting ahead on email or finishing a project for a whole entire day.

But the biblical practice doesn’t stop there. Every seven years, in a continual cycle of rest and work, in the Torah, Israel is called on to take a sabbath year, a sabbatical year. It’s called the year of release.

And it’s radical. Debts are to be cancelled. Lands returned to their owners. So no one hoards too much, or accumulates too much land, or holds too much power over their brother or sister.

It is to be a sabbath year of rest for all people and for creation—Israelites, their servants, and the land.

It’s an ancient practice, and there is wisdom in it.

There is a rhythm of resting and working built in to the creative order that we ignore. And I think that’s to our detriment as humans. And who knows? Maybe even the world is crying out for us to let it rest.

Think about it: we’re supposed to let creation, all creation—the people and the land—rest every seven years. Just from an agricultural standpoint, we know the benefit of letting land rest. Letting it lie fallow allows it to regain its nutrients and strength—it increases the yield of the land. Rest brings forth a harvest.

I think it’s the same for humans. Rest reveals, it brings forth our work, lets us see more clearly the next harvest. Rest gives time and space, it creates room for presence with God and loved ones. To truly be in the moment you’re living, not with a mind racing to the deadlines and demands of work.

And rest requires trust.

Because in practicality, *you’re not working!*

How will all the ends meet?

It seems to make no sense, especially not to our understanding—where only our grit and our output provide for our lives. But tied to the sabbath year command is God’s promise to provide, and provide abundantly.

So it’s a call and a challenge to trust that God will do what He says He is going to do, that He will provide, even if we stop.

The world doesn’t spin because I work; and it doesn’t stop spinning because I stop.

It is so wildly opposite to what we’re told to value—work, productivity, drive, ambition.

We don’t live like this in the present moment. We worry about what won’t get done if we stop. Somewhere inside us, we’re afraid it all will fall apart and consequences will be catastrophic.

But I think the consequences of not stopping might be worse—anxiety, fear, apprehension, depression. The list of mental illnesses afflicting our culture are overwhelming. Not to mention a globe wracked with natural disasters and a world full of injustice.

What if we all stopped and admitted trusting in ourselves—in our human innovation, in our human wisdom—isn’t working?

And maybe considered there might be a better way. A way of wisdom for the ages.

So even if it isn’t corporately sanctioned, I’m taking a sabbatical, facing the fear of “what if” and the excitement of possibility. I’m trusting, even if I don’t always believe it, that God will do what He says He’ll do, so I’m nestling into God’s sovereignty and provision.