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.


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  1. Bob, this was encouraging and convicting at the same time. Thanks for this post, and thanks for being a great example to everyone at Coram Deo.

  2. Thanks for the post! Doing nothing takes a lot of intentionality. I find myself approaching our times of vacation with a consumer-oriented, check-list mindset. Thank goodness my natural laziness kicks in and saves me from getting too crazy. 🙂

    As a mom, I’m always trying to work out the balance between The Almighty Routine (get clothes on in time for sesame street at 9:00, lunch at 11:30, naps at 1:30, etc.) and the quieter, subtler flow of our natural – sometimes chaotic – rhythms. If any wiser mamas out there have advice, please post!

    Your remarks about sleeping when you’re tired, eating when you’re hungry, turning off the crackberry, etc., seem important not only for vacation, but for sabbath, too. Keller has a fantastic sermon on sabbath rest that dovetails perfectly with your post.

  3. Bob, your vacation sounds like exactly what Rachel and I envision as a good vacation. No schedule, no “have to do this or that,” yet complete freedom to do whatever sounds good at the time. I just about feel more rested just thinking about it! It sounds exactly like how our honeymoon in SA was!

  4. I just started back to school today, and as I look back on my summer break, I see that I never did “rest.” I viewed the time as an opportunity (or obligation) to get as many projects done as possible — clean the basement, clean the garage, paint the family room, rewrite my lesson plans for school, etc. I have lost the ability to rest. Your blog was just what I needed to hear. I’m taking my life back!

  5. Bob…I find it amusing that I went on vacation for a few days the end of last week, and the first thing you asked me Monday morning was “How was vacation?”…and the first thing I said was, “Yeah, I realized I just really don’t know how to rest well”.

    I hadn’t even read this post yet! Oh sweet irony 🙂

    Needless to say, this hits home with my heart. My soul needs some rest!

  6. James and I were just talking about vacations for our family this weekend and what we remember as kids. It’s amazing how SIMPLE our favorite memories are (camping, lakes, going on bike rides). Now that we’re in “cottage country” hopefully we’ll meet a friend that will give us the keys to their cottage!!

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