An End … And A New Beginning
Last November I declared “midlife sabbatical is over.” In the aftermath of the election, I felt called to apply my skills more intensively in places where they could make a difference—I just couldn’t watch from the sidelines of sabbatical any longer. At that time, I had no idea what shape this might take. Now I do.
There have been a few twists and turns along the way, but last week I was offered, and accepted, the position of Chief Network Officer at Care Oregon, a nonprofit health plan serving the health care needs of low-income Oregonians. I begin work March 27.
In so many respects, this new role is the fulfillment of my goals of sabbatical. As I wrote in my first post over four years ago, “sabbatical has come to mean any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something.” What have I achieved? Among many things, what stands out for me right now is rest, perspective, and motivation.
Rest has been essential. The Hebrew Torah teaches shmita, or release, the commandment to desist from working the fields every seventh year. Like many, I had gone more than 30 years without this rest, and my reservoir was depleted. It has been true privilege for me to have this time to replenish, and I am now brimming with energy. It’s time to put this to good use.
Perspective has been helped by trying out many new possibilities. Biblical scholarship. Creative writing. Youth development. Spiritual direction. Independent consulting. Playing for the Kansas City Royals (OK, only in my dreams). What became clear over time, though, is that my heart remains drawn to what it has always been drawn to—working in close teams with talented people to accomplish difficult, worthwhile goals.
But what was my “worthwhile” now? First, it became clear that I could make the biggest impact by using the skills that I spent all those years building and honing in the world of healthcare. And I have been encouraged by promising developments here in Oregon, where we have begun taking a more holistic, integrated view of health and well-being, and a more coordinated approach to serving our low-income and otherwise marginalized populations. I have cared deeply about these issues my entire career, and my excitement has grown as I have observed substantive changes and promising preliminary results. It became clear to me that I had found, to borrow the words of Frederick Buechner, “the place where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
And I couldn’t have found a better place and role to focus my heart and skills than the one I am stepping into at Care Oregon. In the past month, I have met with over a dozen people there, and without exception I felt great about the people I met, and a strong sense of fit with the mission, values, culture, and competence of the organization. I simply couldn’t be happier.
As for my work on my M.Div., I should have no problem completing my current class, and I hope to finish up the degree as time and opportunity permits. For now, though, my work on the degree will take a back seat to my new job, and I’m good with that.
Those who have known me for a long time know my fondness for using the Monty Python phrase “And now for something completely different …” to communicate my major life transitions. It’s come true once more, and I hope that we all live long enough to see me use it again. But for now, and I hope for a long time to come, I’m exactly where I want to be, and I’m looking forward to this new beginning.