Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 1)

I’m currently trying to enjoy some time away from work — for me that means church related stuff and ministry situations. My email ‘Out of the Office’ notice is on, and my voicemail alerts people that I am not taking calls.

I asked our leadership team not just for a vacation (which typically means family time, traveling, etc.) but for a “spiritual renewal leave” which I define as time away from day-to-day tasks (sermon prep, meetings) and ministering to people (a drain for a high introvert) to engage fully in things that are truly life-giving and soul-recharging. Since I’m a high introvert who is constantly surrounded by people, this means spending a lot of time alone.

I’m largely spending my time reading 2 or 3 good books (both pastor-related and just for fun), reading those books on the boat or while sipping a drink by a pool/beach, doing some writing to stimulate my brain muscles and spark fresh inspiration for future sermon series, and, of course, playing some golf and doing some lawn work. I also try to catch up with a friend or two outside my normal church social circle and possibly browse a guitar store or two.

Once again I’m realizing how difficult it is to truly get away and how hard it is for others to allow you a guilt-free time away. Part of my struggle is inward and part is outward. Inwardly, I was raised in an environment that applauded hard work and ambition, but didn’t place as high a value on rest, relaxation, sabbath, napping and reading a day away on the couch. I still have to fight away feelings of guilt when I’m relaxing on a boat in the middle of the week while my wife and the rest of the world sits at the office.

Outwardly, I live in a culture full of people who don’t “get it” and make jabs at me for having so much time off (which is laughable). Beneath their little pokes is real deep-seated jealousy and possibly even resentment because they so desperately wish they could or would take their own long-overdue vacation but they just feel trapped and don’t know how.

(A pastor pointed out to me one time that a typical corporate employee actually gets 9 days away from work for each 5 vacation days taken because they get a 2 day weekend on both the front and back of that M-F off. Pastors, on the other hand, will take M-F off but then are often needed or expected to be present on either end or both. Saturdays we pastors are technically “off” but the Sunday sermon is always looming on the horizon and at the forefront of our brains even while we push our kids on the swings or hang out with friends. Just an interesting challenge pastors face.)

I think most people do have the ability to take their own vacation but they just haven’t made it a priority. Ironically, in order to get the rest you need, you really have to work hard to arrange for it. You have to be creative and plan far ahead to carve out the time (arranging childcare, financially planning for it, etc.). The reality is that we were created for a healthy work-rest rhythm and this is one more area where our culture has completely missed the boat and ignored God’s wisdom. We are paying for it both individually and as a society.

Again, like so many other areas of life, this is a golden opportunity for followers of The Way, that is, Christians, to show the world a far better way. Or will we just be conformed to the pattern of this world in this area too?

A fellow pastor in a rural church recently shared with me that its hard for him to take a day off each week knowing his congregation are all hardworking farmers who can’t afford to take a time off. He’s worried that they’ll view him as somehow lazy or irresponsible. I gently reminded him that they are simply not following God’s Word, and that as their pastor he is accountable to teach them to follow God’s wisdom in this area. We pastors must lead the way, even when the world doesn’t get this at first.

So, in the next post I want to make a case for why vacation and rest are absolutely central to our humanity and to our call to follow God in a godless world. Tune in tomorrow as I make my case.

Books I’m reading:

Preaching by Timothy Keller

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Minnetrista Memories by Mildred Krenke Banks (local author sharing stories of growing up by my home around 1900)

Party Out of Bounds: The B-52s, R.E.M., and the Kids Who Rocked Athens, Georgia by Rodger Brown

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