Americans have lost the ability to rest. Statistical studies have shown that we now spend more hours at work than at any time since World War II: in fact, each year our work year increases by one day. And the proliferation of communication technology only exacerbates the problem by ensuring that we can bring our work home with us.
Our inability to rest affects even our approach to vacation. For many of us, vacations end up being stressful and harried as we rush to pack in as many amusement park rides, family visits, or leisure activities as we can. We come home needing a vacation to recover from our vacation!
After my sabbatical a few years ago, my wife and I decided to intentionally develop a rhythm of rest in our lives. Our definition of “vacation” has adjusted accordingly.
Last week was vacation week. Some generous friends gave us the keys to their lakeside cabin in the Ozarks. We packed up our four kids and the dog and spent 6 glorious days doing mostly nothing.
- We fasted from media – no email, no cell phones, no internet, no movies.
- We took off our watches and refused to keep track of time.
- We slept when we were tired and ate when we were hungry.
- We spent most of our days swimming in the lake, fishing, playing board games with the kids, reading books, and taking naps.
- We lived simply and enjoyed it: a family of six in a 900-square-foot cabin with one bathroom. And it was fine. (People have lived this way for most of human history, you know. Only in America does a newlywed couple “need” a 2000-square-foot house.)
Our kids LOVE this sort of vacation. They would rather go to the lake than to Disneyworld. The rhythm of rest is refreshing not just to us, but to them: no schoolwork, no video games, no set bedtimes, no schedule to keep. And the answer to most everything is “yes.” Can we stay up late? Yes. Can we swim across the lake? Yes. Can we drive the golf cart? Yes. Can we have ice cream for dinner? Yes.
Rest is God’s gift – and His command. If it’s been a while since you unplugged… get out your calendar and plan some time away. Your soul needs it.