Many of us are planning some wonderful vacations this year. Some have told me about planning trips to the beach, and others are going to the mountains. Last year Linda and I pulled our travel trailer to Bar Harbor, Maine to visit my daughter who was teaching there for a week, and it was a wonderful trip.
Are you one of those who think, when you are away having fun, that there are so many things you need to be doing back home? Do you get away for a while but still worry about how things are going without you?
It was nearly 40 years into my ministry before I took two consecutive Sundays off, and I have to say that I am not so proud of that statement. Early on I felt like I needed to be at the church doing things, taking care of people and preparing sermons. How would they feel about having a guest preacher two Sundays in a row? Wouldn’t someone complain that I was away too much?
I have known people who thought that if what you were doing was fun, it must be sinful somehow. Life is not about having fun, but rather it is about being useful and productive! Isn’t that how it is?
There are plenty of studies that indicate that we all need a break from what we do day in and day out. These studies tell us that we can be much more productive if we step away from what we are doing to rest, and many of us have come to think of that day off as being the Sabbath. This is a terrible misunderstanding of what Sabbath means.
We are not to take the Sabbath as a time to “rest up” so we can renew our energy to do a better job. Rather the Sabbath is actually a time to reflect on what we are doing and whether we are doing what we really want to do. Some people have taken a few days off only to come back to work to quit and start another job. That is not always a bad thing.
A vacation is time for me to enjoy what I do to have fun. It is a time to relax or to play hard, to visit a place and learn about what is there. I have visited Israel a couple of times, and when I get back home I am usually exhausted and need to rest before I can get back to work, but I learn so much from those trips. Walking the streets of Jerusalem, visiting the towns of Galilee, and seeing where biblical events actually happened have a way of making me a different person.
At Thanksgiving we go to Gulf Shores, Ala. and visit with family for a week, and we play golf, eat, shop, eat, go to a movie, and eat some more. There is nothing to do but have all the fun I can have for the time I am there. I never took anything to study, I did not spend time putting together sermons, and I certainly did not call back home to find out how things were. I have also declined invitations to do weddings on Thanksgiving weekend. That was my time for me, and when I came home, I was made new.
That is what recreation is about, really. We are being recreated, refreshed.
When God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis tells us God took six days to do it, and on the seventh day, God rested. Maybe it was a time to reflect, to think about what God had created and whether there were some changes that might need to be made. We have no indication of what God did on the eighth day, but God gave us the model for our lives when He gave us Sabbath.
The fourth commandment is as important as any of the others: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” It is a time for us to be in prayer about who we are, what we are doing, how it benefits our community, and how it fulfills our purpose. When we take time off to do that, we are made new every week. And that is a good thing.
Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at Jayhodges610@yahoo.com