Monday, June 25, 2012

Wanted: An After-Vacation Vacation

Now I understand why many people in Europe annually take weeks – sometimes a full month – of vacation or “holiday” at a time, often putting workplace demands and challenges in limbo.

Last week my family and I spent a week in Panama City Beach, Fla. (before tropical storm Debby approached, thankfully). I think it was Wednesday, maybe even Thursday, before I began unwinding from the stress of projects, deadlines, email, schedules and appointments. Then, just as I was finally starting to “chill,” it was time to drive home. I need a vacation after my vacation!

Do you find yourself "living to work"
or "working to live"?
It’s said people in some parts of the world “live to work,” while folks in other parts of the world – including those in Europe who might be on holiday right now – “work to live.” While Americans seem enamored with the bottom line, checking items off to-do lists, and earning feelings of accomplishment, maybe our fascination with work causes us to miss out on a bit of life. Many of us don’t really know how to relax.

Perhaps that’s one reason the Bible places a premium on rest. The 4th commandments is, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). This command isn’t intended to be restrictive or to limit productivity, as Jesus explained in Mark 2:27 – ”The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He was saying we require rest; when you burn the candle at both ends, you run out of candle.

One of my favorite characters in the Old Testament is Elijah, who in 1 Kings 18 successfully overcomes the challenge of 450 pagan priests, takes part in several stunning displays of divine power, and correctly predicts the moment a 3½-year drought will end. When told queen Jezebel wants to kill him, he flees. “What a lack of faith!” I’ve heard some preachers say. I don’t think it was a matter of faith; he was simply worn out.

In 1 Kings 19, rather than chastising Elijah, God sends an angel with food, and lets him sleep before issuing his next set of orders. Nowhere does the Lord scold Elijah, “What’s the matter? Didn’t you think I could handle Jezebel?” After Elijah’s participation in miraculous, mind-blowing events, God knew his servant needed a “chill pill.”

Jesus also impressed on His followers the importance of rest. In Mark 6:31 He urged them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Another version of the Bible translates it, “…come apart by yourselves….” Or as I’ve heard it stated, “Come apart before you fall apart.”

There’s nothing wrong with working hard – and when necessary, working long. And we might not be able to take vacations weeks or a month at a time, especially with our “get it done – and get it done now” societal mindset. But we do need rest, and should seek that as diligently as we pursue our daily work.

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