Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I love that word. It's so... jubilant. It's hard to even say it without smiling.

With Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebration going on in England, the word has been floating around much more than normal these days. In its simplest form, Jubilee just means a joyful anniversary.

The first time I ever heard the word, though, was on a Michael Card song many, many years ago. And to this day, that Jubilee is the one that sticks in my head. Lately, especially, the true meaning of it is swimming in my head.

I'm no historian or theological expert, but this is what I understand about Jubilee:

When God created the world, he ordained that six days would be for work, and the seventh would be for rest.

When the nation of Israel was formed, God ordained that six years would be for work - sowing and harvesting - and on the seventh, the people and the land would rest. No farming, no working in the fields. He was asking His people to have faith in Him, to trust that He would provide for them. During that time, debts were forgiven. It was a time for everyone to start fresh.

Taking this pattern of sevens, the 49th year would be a sabbath year, but the 50th year would be a Jubilee. Not only would there be still no sowing and harvesting and debts would be forgiven, slaves would be set free, and the land ownership would go back to God.

Radical, eh? I imagine for those who had much, it was hard to let go, and for those who had little, it was a year of great celebration - and maybe a bit of fear. Starting over, even if in a good way, is sometimes hard. Trusting God to provide is not something that comes easily.

Yesterday I finished a book titled The Harbinger. I have mixed feelings about the book itself - the way it's written and the implications of it - but it is definitely thought provoking. In it, the idea is put forth that America is suffering judgement for not following God, and has, in essence, had a "forced" jubilee - the fall of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the economy.

I think one reason the idea of a Biblical Jubilee has been playing in my head is because taking a "Sabbath," or time off, is something I fight against. It's something Americans in general fight against. This country was built on "work harder." Many businesses operate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Many people work far more than 40 hours a week.

My graduate program, unlike traditional colleges, runs year round. There is no long summer or winter break. But there are a few weeks between the end of one semester and the beginning of the next, and traditionally in that time I've taken time to let go of reading and writing and just focus on the family and holidays and the things I neglect when I'm buried in school work.

But this spring I've increased my work, and my expectations of myself. Rather than taking time off, I've put more pressure on myself to complete more work. To restructure my novel and rewrite the first half of it, to revise all of the short stories from last semester, to write a new short story, and to get a good jump start on my reading for next semester so I'll have more time to write in the summer. My mind is working on the next story even when I'm not at the computer - on weekends, at the pool, in church, out to dinner with the family.

Write more; sleep less. My motto of last semester continues.

And I'm worn out.

My creativity is dry. My brain is like the Sahara.

You know what fascinates me? As hard as it is to leave the ground fallow for an entire year, it's good for the ground, and in the long run, good for the farmer. It's not just the farmer that needs the time off - it's the ground itself. It needs time for the minerals to be replaced, so it can in turn feed its crops better.

Are our brains like that, too?

I resist this idea with everything in me. The idea of stopping for a time, letting ideas rest - and not just some ideas, but the whole of trying to create - is abhorrent to me. Like I'm being lazy, or not working up to my potential. Or that while I'm "resting," some harder working writer is going to pass me.

I sympathize with the Israelites, who stopped doing their Jubilee and pressed on in an effort to build a stronger, richer nation. I'm sure there was a great part of them - like me - that justified that hard work as something noble and honorable.

In the end, though, it's really a reliance on myself and not trusting that God will provide. That the accumulation of pages and books is not the ultimate goal of my life.

I'd like to say I've conquered this struggle, and I'm officially off writing for the next week, and I'm happy and jubilant. But I'm not. I will probably close this blogging window and open my Word document and keep pushing on. Or maybe I'll walk the dog first, and listen to music instead of plotting. Little steps, right?


  1. Your posts are always so thought provoking. I do think breaks are good. Spending an afternoon with your family where you forget about work, what you're going to make for dinner, or the lady down the street that ticked you off, is good for the soul

    I also think taking some time where you don't think about your plot, your characters, your next chapter can be fruitful in the long run. But in the past I think I've taken too long of breaks and I've lost any kind of flow I had.

    I guess in the end you have to judge for yourself what works best for you.

  2. I can completely relate to this, Heidi. When I'm not writing, I always feel guilty - and I really think that is a part of the American mentality.

    But you're right - we DO need to take time off and rest. More importantly, we need to give ourselves permission to take time off. I'd say pray about it, ask God to help you give yourself that permission. :-)

  3. when I know my brain needs a break from writing, I have to force it to do other things.
    I play catch up with my family on Facebook, and twitter. I offer to read for friends.
    I edit old stuff, and just play around with it.
    I allow myself to get bored.
    I plan activities that will make writing time impossible...

    Good luck finding your groove :-D Or maybe I should wish you good luck in finding a way to let yourself shut down.

  4. Thank you for commenting on my blog and like tinkerbell said Happy writing :)

  5. I'm glad you wrote about this. It's a subject I think about a lot.

    I also have this Mennonite work ethic thing and feel guilty when I'm not DOING SOMETHING so basically all blogging because it's not productive. Gotta work, do something, make something, grow or clean something. I even feel like I have to pray productively!

    It really is missing the point.

    Coming from a farm background, I know how scary it is to take time off. The work is always, always there, and slacking off is potentially ruinous financially. But! You can't keep working if you're exhausted!

    I'd like to think God wants us to have some balance in our lives. And I'm making efforts to make one day a week a day off. It's hard; the music industry was built on competitive workaholism. But I've learned that the well has to be filled if we're going to keep drawing from it. (that applies to writers eh?)