Sabbath Rest on Vacation

“Wave after wave of God’s love washes over me.” This little prayer inspired by Psalm 42:7 is a good summary of the ten days Kristi and I have been enjoying in Kauai. We’re thankful for our friends who provided for us to stay in their timeshare!

As I write to you I’m sitting on the beach early in the morning, right at the edge of the ocean, listing to the waves crash into shore, one after the other. I love the ceaseless gentle roar of the ocean! Soon the sun will be rising, but for now it’s dark except for the light of the bright morning star. I’m reflecting on the blessing of enjoying God’s goodness and beauty during these days.

I wonder how you find rest, real rest of soul? I wonder what nourishes you to give you energy and delight for life?

Overworking and People-Pleasing

Back in my years of anxious workaholism, vacation was something I earned after working hard and long. And if I didn’t fill up my days off with activity and accomplishing something then it didn’t feel like a reward — it felt empty, even depressing. (Who was I if I wasn’t achieving something? I felt insignificant.) So I distracted myself with busyness or entertainment.

Kristi’s challenge was different. Her “work” is helping people so on vacation she’d feel empty if she didn’t have anyone to care for or make happy in some way. On vacation when she wasn’t serving our family (when you have young children a “family vacation” is an oxymoron!) then she distracted herself from the emptiness she felt by filling her time with activities like reading magazines by the pool or shopping.

But the Psalmist knows we yearn for a richer, deeper life in God. He reaches into the depths of his heart and ours when he cries out: “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (Psalm 116:7). How to do we find this rest? How can we simply, “Be still and know” the Lord? (Psalm 46:10)

Understanding Sabbath

“Keep the Sabbath” is the Bible’s answer. The Christian Sabbath is the first day of the week, not the seventh as is usually thought. It makes a big difference. God doesn’t give us Sabbath rest to reward us for six days of work or to help us recover from being too busy. Adam and Eve’s first day of life was a Sabbath day. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. We begin our work week by resting in God, appreciating his work of creation, rejoicing in his goodness to us, gathering perspective and strength from him to engage the work that’s ahead and do it with him in the “easy yoke” of Jesus.

You may not have ever linked Sabbath and vacation. It goes back to my question: How do you find rest, real rest of soul? Being a tourist, watching a movie or sporting event, perusing Facebook, playing games with friends, window shopping, or reading the newspaper rarely facilitate an experience of Sabbath rest and worship. They’re all fine things to do and I do them too, but Sabbath is about enjoying our Creator and Redeemer and sharing this experience with loved ones.

Once we learn how to keep the Sabbath then we’ll be better able to bring a sense of God’s presence and peace into our activities. Rather than “escaping” into entertainment we’ll be engaging with God and others while we have fun.

Solitude Facilitates Sabbath Rest

In our noisy, cluttered, busy world the only way into the real rest and divine delight of Sabbath is learn how to make use of extended hours of solitude and silence with Jesus. Except as we learn how to unhook from the pressures of our work, the constant stream of communication (e-mail!) and media, the expectations of people, and the other forms of busyness and entertainment in our daily lives we never get to the bottom of who we are before God in our naked self and discover that actually we’re not alone and insignificant, but loved deeply — even if we’re doing “nothing.”

Training in Sabbath rest has taught Kristi and I to turn vacation time into an opportunity for days that are permeated by intimacy with Jesus, like a short Sabbatical. So we’re happy to share that our days here in Kauai have been God-filled, featuring long walks on the beach, laying out in the sun in pure solitude, sleeping in, reading spiritual books, hours and hours of soul talk, memorizing and meditating on Scripture, and ice cream with papaya!

The best way to learn the practice of Sabbath for pastors and other men and women in ministry is on a Sabbatical. We show you how this can be a reality for you in our Sabbatical Guide.

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