It seems a bit self-serving to reflect on reasons to take a vacation (especially while one is on vacation), and it also seems a bit counter-productive to write a blog while on vacation (isn’t writing a blog considered work?). So, you see the bind people find themselves in when they take vacation? Especially in the “helping” professions, the line between work and rest become incredibly blurred.
My lines have not been quite so blurry this week. I’ve managed a decent week on disconnecting. I’ve only checked work emails a couple of times (one way to avoid doing so is un-sync your phone from your work email), and I’ve only responded to a couple of work related emails. I’ve managed to spend some very relaxing days with my toes in the sand. It’s been a pretty good week…if I do say so myself.
Pastors are notorious for not taking enough vacation. That shouldn’t be surprising. It simply means pastors are a lot like other Americans. The Huffington Post reported that 40% of Americans don’t take all their vacation. 40%! That’s a large number. There are probably a lot of reasons that number is so high, not the least of which is that not many people can afford to “go” on vacation. I know I can’t afford (monetarily speaking) to be away from home four weeks a year. I rather think it has more to do with our need to be needed…which is all the more reason to take the vacation.
“All the more reason to take the vacation…” Because I’m on vacation, let me be brief and offer three reasons it’s important to take the vacation time each of us is given.
As paradoxical as this may be to say, vacation is not ultimately about you. Resting is ultimately about our dependence on our creator. It is an acknowledgement on our part that we are weak and limited. It’s a confession, especially for us pastors, that we’re not the answer to all our church’s issues. Additionally, rest is a great way to break the “works righteousness” mentality. Rest allows us to better understand the theology of grace.
Moreover, rest is as much for those around us. Rest is a gift to our families, especially our spouses. Sure, we might not need a vacation, but our spouse and our children do! Don’t our families deserve as much of us as the world does? Yes, ministry is a calling, but so is being a good spouse and parent.
Taking a vacation is an excellent reminder of our ultimate expendability. That’s really not a fun think to think about, but the reality is that when we’re away, the world keeps right on turning. Tasks get completed without you. Yes, I know. There will be a pile waiting on my desk when I get back…but…they are “waiting.” Nothing earth-shattering happened because you weren’t there to take care of a task.
Vacations lower stress and reduce anxiety (unless you’re one of those rare persons who stresses out because of all the work they’re missing). We need to take a lesson from professional athletes who routinely “recover” between training sessions. We can only push our minds and our bodies so far without them breaking. The tighter the rubber band is wound, the more likely it is to snap. Time off and vacations are some of the healthiest things we can do. And, it’s biblical, too. God built rest into the rhythm of life. There’s a reason He did. (Read more about rest here).
Vacations also promote health within the organizations we lead. Vacation by the leader of the organization provides a positive example to staff of the importance of maintaining a proper work/life balance. Additionally, it frees up staff to creatively manage in the leaders absence. In churches, it also empowers the laity to embrace their own gifts for ministry as laity step up to fill roles usually reserved for their clergy leaders. Who knows? A pastor’s vacation may be the very vehicle God uses to allow someone to discern God’s call to ministry in their own life. I’d say that was a pretty healthy thing.
Routine tasks stifle creativity. That’s why it’s called “getting in a rut.” When the mind relaxes, it begins to function in a more creative way. Imagine…getting away from work may be the very thing that frees up the creative juices so you can solve that pesky problem that’s been hindering you at work (see…another paradox). I’ve always had a hard time writing sermons or preparing bible studies when in the office. It’s when I’m away from the “routine” of work that creativity is spawned.
Yeah, I know…it’s not a deep reflection…but, hey…I’m on vacation. You can’t really expect me to think too deeply, can you? Maybe you’ll find these three reasons helpful in encouraging you to take your own vacation.
Until next time, keep looking up…