Summer is traditionally vacation time, and if you haven’t already been there and back (as we have), you probably have your plans made. Tickets bought, itineraries confirmed, reservations made, packing lists checked. Vacations are wonderful times, or at least they can be, and needed breaks from the relentless pace of school and work. God certainly ordained periods of rest for us, from the weekly Sabbath to the Sabbath year every seven, to the year of Jubilee at the 50-year mark.
But are you the kind of person or family that inevitably can’t wait to get back to work so you can slow down and rest a bit? Are your vacations typically more hectic than the pace of everyday life?
We certainly fell prey to the beast of vacation busyness and activity in the past. We would hit the ground running, renting the car, driving hundreds of miles per day, stopping at every tourist destination we could, seeing the sights, hiking the trails, swimming in the pools, seeing family and friends, and so on ad nauseam. We thought we were doing good by coming home at least a day or two early so we could rest a bit before going back to work.
Granted, trips like that make great photo albums, tweets, and facebook updates. ‘Today we saw the Grand Canyon and 6 other parks whose names I can’t remember, swam in the hotel pool, worked out in the hotel gym, drove 8000 miles on Interstates.’ Impressive. Maybe. If that is our ‘vacation’ then I fear we are missing out on a great opportunity to ‘be still and know that He is God.’ After all, for a whole week, or two, we do not have to go to work, we can sleep in, and just chill (Caveat: I recognize how utterly irrelevant this is if you are the parents of small children, or other possible scenarios that render such an idealistic view of life as pure rubbish. My apologies. But I will press on anyway….). So why don’t we let ourselves ‘be still’?
We (My wife and I. Our kids are grown so the above caveat no longer applies to us. But we did take along two dogs.) recently spent two weeks on vacation. We ‘did’ very little. We sat around a lot. We read, took naps, talked a lot, prayed for many friends and family members, made dinner together. I worked hard at ‘being’ rather than ‘doing.’ One day I went outside and sat in a comfortable Adirondack chair. No book, no phone, no journal. Just sat. It was kind of hard to walk out like that, with nothing in my hands to ‘do.’ But I did. I was surrounded by Jeffrey Pine trees, and the wind was blowing that day as it often does in the mountains. As I sat and listened, I reflected on the thought that God is a God of sound (I wrote earlier about how God is a God of color.). The wind reminded me of a symphony. I would hear it rise to a crescendo on my left, then as it died down, it began to build in front of me. It would whip itself into a frenzied fortissimo, and then suddenly drop off to a pianissimo. And then, ever so gently, the wind would hit a bush off to my right and jingle the leaves in a coda of percussion. It was amazing! ‘He rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds…’ Psalm 104:3-4.
I heard God riding the winds that day. I think He said something like: I am here. I made the wind. I designed it so that the wind would make music as it swirls through the treetops. I am God.
It took several days of slowing down before I was able to sit still long enough to hear His ‘Wind-Blown Symphony.’ But how cool! No tickets, no parking fees, no crowds to fight, no regret over lousy seats, no traffic jams after leaving the concert hall. God was the Maestro, and I was an audience of one.
Now that is a vacation! Let me encourage you to build some ‘be still’ time into your schedule this summer. In fact, build it into your whole life, every week, every day.
‘Be still and know that I am God.’ – Psalm 46:10