When I was in grade school, the first few days of the new school year always involved the “What I did on my summer vacation” reports. As school children, we loved vacation and we loved talking about what we did (even if, for most of the summer, it was just the local public school vacation day camp with sports in the morning and arts and crafts in the afternoon).
When I practiced law, my experience was that a not insignificant number of lawyers in the law firm did not take their full vacation time. Many lawyers seemed to pride themselves on being constantly available and never taking time away from work. (“I haven’t taken vacation in __” was a non uncommon boast, and one that drew approving nods.)
But rest from labor is important. As my friend John reminds me, vacation is a time of re-creation. And what we do during our rest from labor matters, it says a lot about who we are. There is a beautiful short essay by Father Richard Veras in this month’s Magnificat, called The Importance of Vacation Time. He speaks of vacation (he thinks the better word is holiday) as giving us an opportunity “for an even great awareness of God’s presence, an even deeper gratitude toward him who is always the source of all that is good.”
Of course, we pray always and we have the opportunity to be with God always; we don’t need vacation to be in the aware of God’s presence. But it is important for us to take time away from our usual obligations and distractions to spend some greater “quality time” with God. Maybe that means some long hikes in the mountains hand in hand with Jesus. Maybe it means taking God to the beach and watching the sunrise together. It could mean a lot of different things, but whatever it is, we need that time.
Veras ends his essay with a beautiful prayer:
May our vacation days not merely be empty of labor, but full of true joy. May we take full advantage of the free time given to us to encounter the love, truth and beauty of Christ in the myriad of ways he comes to us. May we look forward to the unexpected ways he will show himself to us in this privileged time, and may we find outselves re-created so that our belonging to Christ may help to renew the face of the earth.
[Written from Grand Marais, Minnesota, where Dave, Elena and I are hiking and kayaking with God.]