Friday, June 17, 2005

VACATION GUILT AND SABBATH RENEWAL

VACATION, RETREAT, DOWN TIME. Why is it so hard to take these words seriously, to enact them without guilt, to step aside momentarily from the urgent, critical, and essential? We try to "squeeze in" a vacation amid a summer schedule chocked full of urgent dates. We dare to plan a retreat so long as it does not impinge on the work week. We think of down time, idle time, off-line time as wasted time.

LOST SENSE OF "SABBATH." Could it be that we have simultaneously lost the sense of Sabbath and think too highly of ourselves? Or, maybe the former causes the latter. Perhaps it is in losing the sense of Sabbath that we think too highly of ourselves. Sabbath-less lives are anxious lives, lives based on self-promotion, self-justification, self-preservation. Sabbath-less lives are rest-less lives in which a vacation means a costly withdrawl, lost productivity, and personal risk at many levels. What happens to one's sense of worth if the business manages well without you?

SABBATH-ORIENTED LIVING. A Sabbath orientation requires vacation. Not because you need a break, but because you need God's perspective and grace. Because you think too highly of yourself. Because you're killing yourself apart from it. Keeping Sabbath, we would begin to see and know ourselves not to be the center of the universe. We would acknowledge our Creator. We would embrace the reality of Grace. We would come to know ourselves--and the challenges of our lives--aright. We would find the power and wisdom to live forwardly, creatively, transformatively. And we would rest.

HOLY LEISURE. A cursory read through my e-mail and the news headlines during this vacation brings this challenge to light. I am 1,000 miles from home, yet I am tempted to act as if I never left town. And do people who count on me there resent my brief absence? Is vacation a merely permitted, tolerated thing, or is it commended as a life-giving part of creative living? And even if it is commended, does that commendation occur as a means to a utilitarian end? All of these seem to fall short of the sacredness of authentic Sabbath. What if, instead, we were to speak of and act in the reality of holy leisure?

P.S.: This entry is not for the lazy, slackers, those who are running from hard work, or those who routinely take advantage of either their employer or employees. Yahweh is the One unto whom we work (yes, even waiting tables). If we slack or mistreat, it is unto God (woe unto the manager who will not pay a living wage!). If you do not labor fully in the six days, your Sabbath will be restless. If you mistreat workers in the six days, your Sabbath will mock you. Read Isaiah 58--accept its judgment, embrace its truth, repent...and be renewed.

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