Chopin, Rubato, and a Sabbath

Jen Bradbury
Jun 25 · 5 min read

One of my favorite pieces to play on the piano is Nocturne in C-sharp Minor by Frederic Chopin. One of the things I love about this piece is it's use of rubato, a technique in which certain notes are arbitrarily lengthened while others are correspondingly shortened. One of the places where this occurs is at the tail end of the second section, the piu mosso – a section that is much quicker than the rest of the piece until suddenly, rubato is employed on it's final note, a dotted half note. Using rubato here lengthens this note and in so doing, gives the piece space – breathing room, if you will – before it's beautiful, ornate closing section begins.

I was reminded of this piece earlier this month as I prepared for and took my first extended vacation (12 glorious days!) in three years. The months leading up to this vacation were quick and frantic – rather like the piu mosso section of this piece by Chopin. They were filled with a miscarriage; The completion of my culmination research project for my master's degree; And the normal busyness of a youth worker's life (weekly programs, Youth Sunday, end-of-the-year celebrations, leader's training, student leadership development, mentoring, and mission trip prep.)

By the time I got to the airport and boarded my flight, I knew I was running on empty. Spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I was exhausted, in almost desperate need of a little breathing room in my life. To be honest, at that point, I'd been ignoring the warning signs of burnout for far too long. For me, among other things, those warning signs include crying without cause; A more cluttered than normal car; An unkept house; An office that's an out-of-control mess; And a stack of untouched books.

So my husband and I retreated to the mountains – to the place that recharges us and gives us strength.

We inserted some rubato into our own lives and changed up the pace: Sleeping for extended periods of time; Hiking into some of the most beautiful spots we've ever seen; Luxuriating in the wonder of God's creation; And abandoning our electronics and calendars.

We rested. We talked. We read. We explored. We recharged.

In so many ways, our vacation became a 12-day Sabbath, filled with worship and wonder even though we never opened a Bible or set foot in a church during that time. Sometimes, for us - for me – God is most evident outside, in the wonder of his creation, in a place where there is space to be still, to read, to think, and to pray.

In the Canadian rockies, I found the breathing room my life's been lacking for quite some time now.

And it's a good thing, too.

I enjoyed my vacation, holding it's final note for as long as I possibly could but now, life has resumed. The beautiful, ornate notes of a summer season full of ministry are in full swing, crescendoing toward our summer trips in a few short days.

The only difference is that having rested, I am, for the first time in a long time, ready and excited to once again play those notes.