1645, “of or suitable for the Sabbath,” from L. sabbaticus, from Gk. sabbatikos “of the Sabbath” (see Sabbath). Meaning “a year’s absence granted to researchers” (originally one year in seven, to university professors) first recorded 1886 (the thing itself is attested from1880, at Harvard), related to sabbatical year (1599) in Mosaic law, the seventh year, in which land was to remain untilled and debtors and slaves released.  (

I thought this year would be a year of jubilee, thought last June that God whispered the word to me. This year, after seven long years, would be the year of rejoicing, the year of harvest, celebration. I took a deep breath, expectant, and then came July. From the madman who mowed down a movie theater just down the road from our neighborhood, to the sting of hurts and the relentless ache of sorrows laid on our doorstep, the summer turned dark and broody.

Instead of celebration it has been a year of weariness to the bone. Have you been there? So depleted, so worn… So we planned for rest — sabbatical — we leave in 2 weeks. We will take some time, a few months, to recuperate, meditate, reconnect with God. We will study. We will pray. We will, as the Roman soldiers did, soak our shields, that the barrage of fiery arrows will fizzle out.

And I’m grateful, really I am, but I wonder. What happened to my year of Jubilee? What gives? I look up sabbatical in the dictionary and this is what I see: the year, according to Mosaic law, the seventh year, in which the land was to remain untilled and debtors and slaves released. The last sabbatical after 7 cycles of sabbaticals is also known as Jubilee.

So maybe we’re not there yet.

We’ve walked the fields, marked the boundaries, cleared away the rubble, stone by stone. We’ve hitched the plow, dragged the rows, churned the hard soil. We’ve knelt in the muck and dug deep, planted the seeds, patted them down. We’ve lugged the water, yanked up the weeds, tended the fragile sprouts. There have been mild days and warm rains, seasons of drought and vicious storms. And so, we wait. Like every farmer since the dawn of time, we’ve come up achy and exhausted, dependent on the whims of weather beyond our control. And now we’ve come to a sabbath season, time to soak the tired muscles, let the soil rest.

Plowed fields
Plowed fields (Photo credit: Peter Nijenhuis)

Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. You will find rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Rest. Like a weaned child rests against its mother, I have calmed and quieted my soul. Hope in the Lord. Be still.

Ah, Lord, we need rest like we need water. You are the wellspring of life.

You go hard, you work long, you put the shoulder to the plow and you don’t look back until you just can’t go any more. What’s the alternative? Live easy, don’t risk? Maybe rest is the best reward. Orchards don’t spring up overnight. So we rest, we wait. I am hanging on for my bushel of peaches. Someday.

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