July 2, 2020

The truth is that I have never been a good vacation person.  It is hard for me to go away and even harder to stay away.  Cell phones, ipads and laptops do little to help.  They give me daily and throughout the day the kind of access to my “work” that I need to “vacate.”  And what I am saying about it being hard for me to get away and stay away would have for most of my adult life been spoken with a sense of pride.  It would have been intended to have been heard as, “here is a man who loves his work so much that he cannot leave it for one week or two.”  I am convinced now at my age that such is the thinking not only of a proud man but a sick man.  No work is that important and no person is of that much value to his work no matter what his work is.  A person who thinks this way has made an idol out of his work even if his work is the work of ministry.  Any pastor who considers his presence and input so important to the essential working of the church that he simply cannot go away and stay away needs at least a reminder that the church is not his church.  God was able to sustain his church long before now and if Jesus tarries, He will be able to sustain His church long after the pastor is gone.  
I have learned a lot about what a vacation, or “holiday” as my brothers call it, from my friends in Ukraine and Belarus.  Many people there including my “pastor buddies” take the whole month of July off.  Like that?  Now their holidays are not like what we would call vacations as in going to a resort or theme park or renting a place at the beach or in the mountains.  Their holiday is an extended visit to family members that live too far away to see frequently so an extended visit is planned for three to four weeks in July or early August.  It is a time to relax, to be refreshed and to be renewed for the rigor and the routine of daily life.  I like it.  A month could be too long.  A week is not enough.
I learned a few things about me and vacations last week when I was at the beach with our family.  Maybe they will help some of you.  First, I learned again how necessary a time away from the ordinary routine really is.  A vacation/holiday is at its best when it is not simply the daily routine done in a different way at a different place.  It should be different.  I put my phone away except for fifteen to thirty minutes each night.  I did not take it with me to the beach, the pool, or the place I love to be on vacation:  the golf course.  It was very helpful just to be away from all of that “social media” for most of the week.  Secondly, I learned that stress can be present but so much a part of daily life that it becomes normal.  Make sense?  Here is how I knew?  I was tense, aggravatingly to others tense from Saturday through midday Monday. It was midway through the front nine during a rather ugly round of golf on Tuesday that I felt the air oozing out of my stress balloon, and it felt so good.  I relaxed the rest of the week.  Stress is not bad but if it builds up as it had obviously in me without me knowing it, it can have a distressing effect on a person and those around them until that balloon pops.  So my real vacation was from Tuesday noon through the rest of the week.  Thirdly, a true vacation happens when stress leaves and is replaced first by “de-stress” that turns to the enjoyment of rest and relaxation that becomes the preparation for a return to the routine.
Vacations are good for the body, the mind and the soul.  Take at least a week or two away as you can.  I can tell you that most of us during this COVID-19 time are more tense than we know and more irritable than normal.  If you don’t think so, ask someone close to you that you love and trust, and ask them to tell the truth.  Then go and take a vacation.