Usually it's pretty easy to distinguish when summer starts around our house because the school year ends with finals, field trips, class parties, good-bye to friends, with the kids suddenly and shockingly being around all the time. The same with church and work. While we don't say good-bye to each other, there's usually a change of rhythm in activity from spring to summer. Well this year the transition was hardly noticeable. Because of sheltering-in-place, school online, church and work from home (and no sports to tell us what season it is), it feels like our lives have stayed virtually the same the past 3-4 months. Spring or summer, weekday or weekend, everyday seems the same. Doesn't it? And we have yet to be able to exhale from the crisis that began months ago. Without the change of rhythm, I think many of us are feeling a growing sense of physical and emotional fatigue even though our lives are much slower than they were pre-pandemic. Add to that the political, social, and economic environment we're in today, and many of us are feeling tired and stressed out, in need of rest and a vacation.
All this made me wonder if Jesus ever took a vacation. As a man, we know He was busy and felt stress and fatigue. While we know little of His first 30 years, the gospels do tell us of times during His ministry when He withdrew or retreated by Himself to pray and several occasions where He took off with His disciples for rest and renewal. One such time was written about in Mark 6:30-32. After the busyness of one of their missions journeys, it says "The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." The disciples were exhausted. So Jesus offered them an opportunity to rest and relax.
Scripture doesn't use the word "vacation" but we know that God recognizes the importance of rest and refreshment. Regarding the creation of the world, Exodus 20:11 says "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." In Leviticus 23:3, we read "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places." God instituted the Sabbath to keep us in a healthy rhythm of work and rest. Regular rest is critical to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health with the Lord. Worship is part of that rest and refreshment. Psychologist and pastor Siang Yang Tan notes that "qualities of rest include quietness of heart, a sober awareness of who we are and who God is, trust, waiting without impatience, and the ability to enjoy things that do not involve performance." He's saying give yourself a break. Make God's Sabbath rest part of your regular routine and you will find peace and perspective.
On a larger scale, I think changing our rhythm of activity or taking a vacation that contributes to quality time with family is also very valuable. While the pandemic limits our options, there are things we can do to change our rhythm or pace of life and find rest from the stress and fatigue we experience. I know some of you are taking more walks, learning new skills, gardening, sewing, baking, playing instruments, reading more, taking drives, and serving others. Some of you are also figuring out how to safely take a vacation this summer. I think these are all great things but please remember to include the Lord in whatever you do so that, as Pr. Tan says, we will have an awareness and trust in who God is. I Corinthians 10:31 says "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
God bless your summer. May you find rest and relaxation. Stay safe and healthy.