When was your last vacation? When was the last time you “got away from it all,” even for a short period of time? Do you make a habit of taking time away from your regular responsibilities so that you can be refreshed and renewed?
Tara and I spent last week in Indianapolis making improvements to our house – mostly kitchen upgrades and yard work, although we hired a local contractor to work on other parts of the house for us. This was a new experience for me; I’ve never done a kitchen remodel project before. But I learned a lot, and thankfully we completed the project before we came back north – except for a small drip in the kitchen sink’s plumbing. (Don’t worry; we’re getting that fixed by a skilled friend soon.)
That’s what I did on my vacation. Some vacation, huh?! Honestly, though, it was refreshing for me to work on this project with my father and my father-in-law. You might think that we came home exhausted from the work, and to some extent that is true. But truthfully I took that week as an opportunity to relax my mind and my spirit, to enjoy the manual labor, and to see a dream take shape before my eyes.
How important it is for us to find rest for our souls in the Lord! Our lives can be full of pain and hardship; some of us know that more clearly than others. Yet God asks us to rest in him in all circumstances. He invites us to trust his ability to strengthen us for the tasks to which he calls us. He promises to walk alongside us and to provide meaning and hope in the situations which we feel are most meaningless and hopeless.
Psalm 90, the only psalm attributed to Moses, speaks about how the Lord is our dwelling place and is so powerful, just, and righteous that we cannot stand before him in our own strength. This psalm concludes with these words:
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:14-17 NIV)
When was your last vacation? Have you recently stepped away from the daily grind and asked God to bless the work of your hands?
Vacations are wonderful, aren’t they? You might be aware that Tara and I were away last week on a vacation of our own – that’s why there was no article posted here during that week. We had not been away from our everyday responsibilities (except for a few days during the Christmas season) since moving to Midland last August. We were ready to take a break!
When was the last time you took a step back from your responsibilities and allowed yourself to relax?
It doesn’t take a full-blown vacation to keep us healthy and sane. In fact, we live in such a luxurious culture that many of us actually can walk away from work, home, and responsibilities for several days at a time – and our little corners of the world keep on spinning. We truly are blessed to live in such a time that does not require every waking minute to be spent on productive tasks.
For centuries upon centuries, the Lord has been encouraging his people to take a break every now and then. Actually, his design was for us to take a break once a week. The concept of the Sabbath, or the seventh-day rest period, is extremely old; our biblical tradition says that even God himself rested after six days’ worth of creation. If God chooses to rest after a full work week, who are we to press on non-stop?
There is a danger here, though, for us to become like the Pharisees and require ourselves, our communities, and our entire culture to avoid any semblance of work on our Sabbath day (which, for Christians, is Sunday in honor of the day of Christ’s resurrection).
Jesus himself warns us about this tendency in Mark 2:27 – “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (NIV). This verse comes in the context of a challenge from the Pharisees that Jesus and his disciples were disobeying the Sabbath by picking heads of grain to munch on. Jesus reframes how we think about the Sabbath: instead of avoiding work one day a week because we want to please God by keeping the law, we should incorporate a regular period of rest into our lives for the sake of our health and well-being. If observing this period of rest means we pick some heads of grain instead of cooking a five-course meal, then so be it!
How do you observe the Sabbath? When was the last time you saw a break in the action? What would it take for you to step away from your responsibilities (but not from the Lord!) for a day or two? When will you do that next?