Sunday evening Raye Jeanne and I returned from the longest vacation we have taken in years, if not ever. We were gone for 17 days. It was more vacation than we took in all of 2020. And in the week that I have been back in the office, I’ve come to two conclusions:
One. Vacation is good for me.
Two. Vacation is bad for me.
First, the good news. Vacation is good because it provides time for physical rest and spiritual renewal. The Lord has created our bodies to need 6-8 hours of sleep each night to remind us that He is God and doesn’t need sleep or rest. We do. I do. Vacation is good because I rest longer and more deeply.
Vacation is good because Raye Jeanne and I get time together. We have time at home, but for 17 days were were rarely away from each other for more than 10-15 minutes. We had long car rides and uninterrupted time to talk. We enjoyed long meals, long walks, coffee and sunrise watching each morning, naps, and movies. I subscribe to the philosophy that quality of time with others is a derivative of quantity of time with others. Quality flows out of quantity and you won’t (generally) have quality without quantity. For 17 days we had both. And it was a blessing.
Vacation is good because I get to refresh my heart with walks in the mountains and reading for enjoyment and enrichment. Most of us have places we like to go that help us to have an exalted view of God — a part of His creation that stimulates us to worship, fear, and love Him. For me, that place is the mountains. When I struggle to catch my breath at high altitude and in view of grand mountain peaks, I am reminded of His sovereign power in which nothing is hard for Him and how His creation is but a little of His finger work. That humbles me and encourages my worship and refreshes my soul. I lost track of how many times I said things like, “God’s creation is stunning!” That was good for me.
So vacation is good for me.
And vacation is bad for me. Vacation changes my routines. And routines are my friend. Routine keeps me in good habits with exercise, food, and most especially, spiritual disciplines. When I’m in a different place with an atypical schedule, I struggle to be consistent with the things that are best for me (physical and spiritual disciplines). And that’s not to my benefit.
Vacation allows me to be with the one person on earth who is most precious to me, but it also pulls me away from other relationships. It creates a false sense of independence that I do not need others and others do not need me. It undoes one of the best lessons of COVID — that we are created for relationship and God has intertwined our lives together so that we might use our spiritual gifts for one another and care well for one another. I need you, and you need me. When I’m on vacation, I tend to forget that, and that’s to my detriment.
So as I sit at my desk, back in a routine that has been my norm for more than 30 years and all my adult life, I am thankful for the grace of God to allow us to get away and receive some extra physical refreshment and delight in the one person who is God’s greatest gift and blessing in my life, and to mutually enjoy many of God’s common graces in rest, mountains, sunrises and sunsets, and special meals.
I am also thankful that vacation is not my norm. I am grateful for a job, ministry, responsibilities, friendships, and relationships that demand my regular attention that keep me from self-absorption and that keep me dependent on God’s daily grace to sustain me in all that He has given me to do. When I use vacation as it is intended — as an opportunity to refresh body and soul for the regular (and good) responsibilities of life it is good. And when I don’t I covet it as the norm of life, then it remains good for all things.