Shedding Old Skin

A snake shedding its skin has been a rich metaphor for me to work with during sabbatical.My problem with our sabbatical being over is that I’m not ready for it to be over. Things have not jelled. I need more time to process some things. I’ve not read all I want to read. I’ve not had the time (believe it or not) to think about some things and get them in concrete. I wish we would have taken longer. Perhaps I needed two more months for things to jell in my soul.John Climacus wrote in the 7th century, “A snake can shed its old skin only if it crawls into a tight hole.” Sabbatical has given me a tight hole in which I've been able to shed some things, find some things and experience some things. It's been rich and rewarding. But here's the deal: I still have old skin on me and in me. Despite my best efforts and intents, I want to come out of this sabbatical time: clean, new and different.With just a few days remaining on Sabbatical, I now know I’m going to walk with a limp. I’m going to still struggle. I’m going to disappoint many of you and my family cause one would think: You should be different given this time!Illusions of being different are born in the waters of baptism. We long to be more than we are. We want to become different than how we see ourselves. We think it's a whole new world when we start out on the spiritual journey. But on the journey we find we carry with us a lot of stuff in our suitcases that never seems to get unpacked and cleaned out. Call it snake skin, graveclothes, habits or addictions--there are some things that just seem like we struggle with--perhaps till we die. Sabbatical has been a time of stripping down my own suitcase and throwing off and away that which simply does not work anymore. Carrying baggage can be so tiring. I’ve found not much dies in those waters of baptism. Demons breathe underwater despite our best efforts to get rid of them. That’s how I feel about re-entry. Not all my demons have died--despite my best efforts to drown them.I’m 60 years old for crying out loud. I thought I’d be done with some stuff by now. Will I still wrestle with the demons of drivenness; performance and pleasing others? Would I not really be better off by doing this…or doing that?One of my grandchildren is almost ready to be potty trained. Being potty trained is all the talk now when we Skype. I can understand my grandson's dilemma. Something has just got to give and change. I’m “almost” ready for a new phase of life myself but somehow when I look down, I feel all messy. It’s not clean. I need someone to help me.Before we even started our sabbatical, we scheduled a re-entry retreat. It begins tonight. So, I'll be able to have some great conversations with a sage like saint whom I've grown to trust. This person, in so many ways is my pastor, my soul friend, my companion but just a head of me a bit--or a lot--depending on what day it is.So, this week, we are leaning into the wisdom of my spiritual director (someone older, wiser and more potty trained than I am). We begin this final act of transition. I want to explore what is for me in my sabbatical and what is for our team. What is for my family. What needs to remain private. Who knows, maybe after my third day with my spiritual director I will have shed my old skin once and for all.