This month I have the joy of taking some time off, and I'm grateful for it. As I settle into the relaxing rhythms of summer, I'm reminded again of these words by John Piper about vacation (those who have been here a while might recognize these words--I've quoted them before):
"Jesus Christ is refreshing. Flight from him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched. At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word. But then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit. Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel."
The longer I've lived and sought to vacation well, the truer these words have become to me. For many of us, summer is a time when we slow down a bit. We sleep later on Saturdays because our kids' sports are over. We find ourselves with slightly less pressure at work and more time to spend with people. We take a couple weeks off for vacation. All of this is good, a gift from God.
Yet I find in myself (and I suspect it's not only true of me) that with this slowing down is the tendency to neglect my relationship with my Savior. How easy it is to forget to spend time in prayer, to fail to enjoy the privilege of reflecting on God's Word, or to isolate ourselves from the rest of our church. There's almost the sense that I (we?) feel the need to take a vacation from Jesus.
But that shows that I'm simply not seeing Jesus clearly. Because Jesus is the one in whom is found real rest. He is refreshing. Recuperation from the busy schedule of the school year comes from drawing nearer to him, rather than avoiding him.
And that's one of the great gifts that is offered us in time off. As our schedule slows down, we often are given more opportunity for extended prayer as we go for a walk, or for deeper reflection on the gospel, perhaps as we delve into a good Christian book. We even may have opportunity while we are away to be encouraged by experiencing another gospel-centered church.
One of Satan's most effective strategies is to make us believe that these God-given practices are exhausting burdens, when in reality they are the way we meet Jesus and find rest for our souls.
What's more, it is important for us to see that in our times of summer relaxation--our moments lying on the beach, or playing a game with our family, or reading a best-seller at Starbucks--in those times, Jesus is there with us. It is his creation we are enjoying. Every moment of vacation can be sacred, lived in his loving presence, when we see this and give him thanks for his goodness.
Would you prayerfully seek with me to make this summer one in which our souls flourish (rather than shrivel), as we draw deeply from the life-giving, rest-giving stream that is our Savior?