“I think we need to cancel our summer vacation,” I said to H, surprised by what I heard myself saying.
Saturday arrived without fanfare and we missed the morning hours by sleeping through them. Sipping coffee and reading from a warm spot in bed, he looks up at me, makes eye contact and replies with words that bring relief.
We’d been planning to tick boxes off on a bucket list of places we longed to visit in Europe. But the more we planned the details – travel, site seeing, and accommodations — the more the trip began making us feel tired. As we talked through corporate uneasiness about our imminent dream vacation, we realized the time away we’d been planning wasn’t what we really needed. We needed rest over more activity.
And Sabbath isn’t the same thing as a vacation.
Summer vacations are often associated with a spirit of ease and togetherness but the season can also provide a challenge when it comes to making rest realistic.While vacation provides a break from routines, we often fill the whitespace with more doing than being. Time set apart for rest can quickly become an UnSabbath — time for leaving God at home.
Away from home with loved ones, we may not open the laptop, cull an inbox, or set an alarm clock, but we are busy in a million different ways.
How many times have you experienced a rush of weariness assault mind, body and soul while slowing down from a non-stop, hurry up pace?
If we haven’t practiced pausing during weeks prior to a planned escape, a vacation becomes a hospital for the soul; a hospitable place that allows you to recover from tiredness and return to your true self.
As we pack up for home, we begin feeling refreshed. And maybe a little cheated that we didn’t have as much time for rest as we hoped.
So, how do we find the spirit of Sabbath on vacation when there are people with needs, meals to prepare, activities to plan and messes to clean up? How do we meet with God when our spiritual rhythms are all out of whack? How do we get away for fun and return home feeling more like ourselves?
Give Yourself Permission
Let go of vacation ideals and the guilt associated with not meeting up to them. Rest and guilt cannot co-exist. Adopt “I don’t do guilt” as your vacation mantra.
Ask For Help
All the little details make a vacation sweet but if you are the only one thinking about them, they can become a bitter resentment. Allow guests to make their own breakfast and lunch. Ask kids to clean up dishes after dinner. Share beach clean-up and tidying responsibilities among those who are traveling with you.
The way you rest is unique to how God created you. If solitude is required for inner peace but you abide in a house full of people, find a few minutes to distance yourself from noise. Without guilt! Sit on a park bench or beach chair while children play. Read a chapter before dinner – in the bathroom if you must. Take a nap while kids nap. Plan time periods for being alone a couple of times throughout the week.
Adjust quiet time routines with Lectio Divina. From reading chapters of scripture to focusing on a few short verses. Pick a portion of text and savor the words slowly. Listen to what God is saying instead of forming your next sentence. Meditate, memorize, repeat and rest in God’s embrace.
While waiting in lines at Disney World, sitting in the back seat of a taxi or navigating the tube to your next destination, practice breath prayers. Choose a simple phrase or brief sentence to pray as you inhale and exhale. For example: Inhale — In returning and rest you shall be saved. Exhale — In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30:15) You may not be able to stop in a church, kneel or close your eyes but you can pray anywhere and at any time.
Practice being over doing by remembering what it means to be one of God’s children. Eat ice cream. Read a novel. Explore a new place. Watch birds. Avoid the mirror and cell phone . . . for days, not hours.
Mostly, bring God with you every day and converse with him often. While you play and relax he’ll remind you of his big, unceasing love that never changes. Because Sabbath is a sign of God’s covenant between us.
Summer vacation is a good time to make eye contact with God and remember why he made the Sabbath.
I gave them laws for living, showed them how to live well and obediently before me. I also gave them my weekly holy rest days, my “Sabbaths,” a kind of signpost erected between me and them to show them that I, God, am in the business of making them holy. Ezekiel 20:11-12