(Me writing on this topic is similar to a burglar writing about respecting the property of others. God currently has my attention when it comes to time, rest and renewal)
I remember a season where I was addicted to ministry in a way that was unhealthy and my pastor/boss knew it. I had given my house keys to kids in my youth ministry (nice boundaries huh?), I was dying on every hill and fighting every battle. My pastor kept hounding me to rest and I usually nodded and continued to slide down the hill of ministry burnout. I was fully aware that Sabbath keeping was one of the most abused and overlooked commandments in the church. I was also fully aware that the average duration of a youth director in my denomination at the time was 1 year, yet I didn’t slow down. As I look back, I don’t think my issue was not wanting to rest or take a break, I honestly didn’t know how. Being as thick skulled as I am, that wise pastor basically said “if I see you around this church on your days off, we will have to take serious action”, at this moment I began to understand.
Confession: I don’t know how to rest or go on vacation very well, which is like refusing to change the oil in your car. On my honeymoon, my wife sat on the beach on a remote island while I ran around networking and trying to find the local pastor so I could do a mission trip to the Bahamas. My wife woke up one morning during our honeymoon and I was gone, hanging out with my new friends. When our honeymoon is brought up in conversation my wife does one of those half-giggle, half-groan type reactions and I don’t blame her.
All of that to say, I have had to start thinking differently about my time away from work. I have found that I need to be very clear about the purpose of my time away or else I will end up frustrated, so I have 3 distinct categories for time way. (These have become more helpful since getting married and having kids, because finding rhythm and boundaries can seem increasingly impossible.)
1. VISITING: Visiting relatives, especially during the holidays, is not vacation for me and my wife and it is surely not rest. Not to say visiting isn’t fun, needed and fruitful, but I need to (and don’t always) put on my servant hat when I’m visiting. I need to make the most of the conversations and spend quality time. If I approach visiting in a way that is centered around me, the visit begins to go south. Visiting is about them.
2. VACATION: For us, vacation is something we do with all four of us. On vacation, the kids will be more and more the spotlight of these trips as they get older. I plan to come back exhausted from vacation because traveling, logistics, the 30,000 trinkets needed for each child and amusement parks can all be energy suckers, yet memory makers. Vacation is about us. P.S, vacations can be super creative and cheap. I actually love the “staycation” idea that many people are doing these days and I’m going to fight the Disneyland thing as long as I can!
3. REST: Rest seems to be the most rare of these 3 birds for me. I now am at a point where I know the necessity of rest. For rest to happen, kids must be with a grandma or a sitter. Rest involves sleeping a little later, having very few plans or expectations and for me it must take place at least an hour from work or home. Rest needs to create space for a good conversation with my wife, my Lord or even with myself. Rest is about me.
“If you don’t claim your time, something or someone else will!”
Visiting is fairly routine and happens during the holidays, but meaningful vacation and rest never just happen. As soon as I post this, I am heading to my calendar to claim some time for me and for my family.
I know this sounds a bit extreme, but it conveys the severity of the biblical mandate to rest; if you burn out, it is your fault and it is sin. (this statement has caused some good conversation in the comment section of this post. It was told to me by a friend in ministry who had this told to him.) I’ve had to chew on that one for some time and it has changed my thinking, blaming and whining when I feel burnt out on ministry and at the same time I understand that the system can not be conducive to rest.)
Whether you get 1 week or 5 weeks of vacation, what do you find helpful in order as it pertains to visiting, vacation and rest? I could always use a few more tips!