Friday, June 5, 2009

VACATION GUILT...AND GRACE

Before I can enjoy a vacation, I frame it in the context of Sabbath

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? I try to "squeeze in" a vacation amid a summer schedule chocked full of urgent dates. I dare to plan a retreat, so long as it does not impinge on the work week. I tend to think of down time, idle time, off-line time as wasted time. I don't think I'm alone in this.

LOST SENSE OF "SABBATH." Could it be that I have simultaneously lost the sense of Sabbath and think too highly of mtself? Or, maybe the former causes the latter. Perhaps it is because I lose the sense of Sabbath that I think too highly of myself. 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 withdrawal, lost productivity, and personal risk at many levels. What, for instance, might happen to my sense of worth if the business manages well without me?

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

HOLY LEISURE. A cursory read through my e-mail and the news headlines during vacation times brings this challenge to light. I can be 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 merely a 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, I were to speak of and act purely in the reality of holy leisure?

POST SCRIPT: This entry is not for lazy people, slackers, those who run 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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