My Sabbatical and What I Learned

foggy pathYou may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in awhile.

It hasn’t been just because of laziness. Over the past several months I’ve been getting more and more discouraged in my writing career, not really feeling like I was making progress, not knowing what direction I was supposed to be going or what I should be striving for or if I should give up altogether.

I know this is not a new feeling for most writers. We all go through phases where we wonder if it’s worth it. Some decide it’s not, and writing becomes a hobby rather than a serious pursuit, and that’s fine. Others stop writing completely. Some give it one more try. And some push through and keep trying, at least one more time.

I’ve struggled with these same emotions of frustration and exhaustion and wondering if it’s worth it plenty of times over the years, but I never really seriously considered giving up. Always before I determined to use setbacks to help me learn and push forward.

This was different.

I truly got to a breaking point. I was emotional all the time,  every new discouragement or rejection sending me spiraling into a deep depression that took me days to crawl out of. And not just my own discouragements. I know we’ve all felt the conflicting emotions of being happy for a friend’s success while fighting jealousy at our own lack thereof in some area, but I was reaching new lows, and I hated myself for my own attitude and jealousy and sense of entitlement.

And I didn’t know how to break it or get out of it. That was the worst part–having all these feelings and frustrations and depression, and not knowing how to move past it or be better or change.

I was talking about it with my sister one day and she suggested I take a writing fast. Set aside a period of time where I do nothing at all writing-related and spend that time being really intentional about seeking God and listening for His direction.

So I did. I only told a couple people, and just sort of dropped off the sphere for three weeks, and have been slowly transitioning back since then. I won’t go into the details of exactly how God worked in my heart during that time, but through church, small group, quiet time, and life circumstances, there were a few lessons that God made it very clear He wanted me to learn.

  1. He is enough.
    Whether or not I ever get a traditional publishing contract, whether or not I succeed materially or in any of the ways I imagine when I envision my future, He is sufficient to meet my needs and fulfill me.
  2. My priorities need to be right.
    While God has always been part of my life, and I know Him and trust Him, spending time alone with Him and putting aside time to prioritize focusing on Him and building my relationship with Him has not always been something I’m intentional about. Life has a way of squeezing out the time it would take to sit and read the Bible and pray with little things like potty training and  washing dishes and squeezing in a few hundred words on a WIP. Being intentional about pursuing God first needs to be above pursuing my writing career.
  3. Obedience and attitude matter.
    Sometimes what God wants for us is the exact opposite of what we want for ourselves. Sometimes what we need is the last thing we want. The last thing I needed to learn, just before my pre-appointed sabbatical was over, was to trust and obey and accept whatever God brought my way. I needed to get to a place where I could say I am willing to accept His timing and His way, even if it’s not what I think I want or what I believe would be ideal for my life. Even if it’s the last thing in the world I want for myself, if it’s what God has for me, I need to trust that He knows what He’s doing and will provide for my needs through that.

I didn’t receive any neon signs pointing the direction my writing is supposed to take, or any very clear confirmation that this is my life’s purpose, but I’m mostly okay with that. My heart is in a better place. It’s still a struggle. I still have the same frustrations. I still fight jealousy and entitlement. It’s still a work in progress. But it’s not debilitating like it was, and I am better equipped to take those frustrations to God and allow Him to be my comfort and my strength. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, writing, submitting, learning, and trying again, and hopefully continue to trust that God knows what He’s doing and His timing is perfect.

I know you have probably dealt with some of these frustrations. I know you’ve probably struggled with direction and purpose in your writing. I hope this is an encouragement to you to know that you’re not alone, that your struggles are valid and understood. And I hope you’ll be strengthened to continue in your journey.

About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

5 comments on “My Sabbatical and What I Learned

  1. This is a hard place to be, and I’ve been struggling with something similar. A fragment of a verse kept coming into my head … “And they lusted exceedingly in the wilderness.” And I realized that I was just like the Israelites, whining about wanting to go back to Egypt where it was less scary and there was better food. I’d made success into an idol. I had to set that aside and seriously pursue contentment. It’s made all the difference.

  2. Wow. This echoes so much of what I’ve been going through, not for three weeks, but more than three YEARS.

    God told me back in 2013 the lessons to come would be trust, and submission. It’s been a long, long circuitous route. I’m not “there” yet, but I’ve learned from some of the exact same sources, and what you’re telling is exactly what I’ve been experiencing: Frustration, fear, anger, resentment, jealousy, and a lot of other garbage. For me, it’s been a tough row to hoe with no benefit yet. And with no writing either.

    But I see the things I’m not doing the way God wants me to more clearly now, and I’m making adjustments. Prioritizing him over writing and being willing to accept whatever his plans are have come hard, hard, hard…and they’re still coming, honestly. I’m learning about having that commitment to intentional relationship with God, not just…well, whatever it is I’ve been “giving” him.

    And of course expecting him to bless me all the while, in the way I want him to.

    You said so much here I can relate to, and you arrived there so much more quickly. I’m still being dragged through it, by the bit, but I guess there is only one path out of the wilderness, only one way out of Babylon.


    • Three weeks was the sabbatical, where that’s all I did. The journey has been years in the making, and continues to be ongoing. 🙂 It was a long, slow build-up that got me to the point where I was truly broken on my own, and ready to be broken anew and set straight.
      And even since I’ve had pangs of jealousy and frustration and I’ve had to be really intentional to regroup and refocus that, putting it back in God’s hands. And I have no doubt there will be many more such instances even after I see “success”.
      You are not alone! God is doing something amazing in you and will do something amazing through you. Carry on, friend!

  3. What you said. Amen.

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