Last weekend I had the joy of filling for my dad in the pulpit at our church. I've done this once before, but it was many, many years ago. Like, before Rowyn was born, I think...so yeah. It's been a while, LOL. But I'd just been thinking, a day or two before he asked me, that I wanted to start expanding my speaking repertoire--you know, so that it included something other than my publishing story. ;-)
As I prayed about what to talk about, my mind kept going back to the topic of vacation. Summer is finally upon us, so vacation is a topic on a lot of different minds, right? When can we go? Where will we go? How long can we stay? How much will it cost? What do I have to do to prepare? For a lot of us, vacation isn’t about rest, it’s about doing—preparing to go, preparing to travel, preparing for each day while we’re there, preparing to get it all home, and then preparing to get back to normal life.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that they need a vacation from their vacation!
Personally, David and I have made it a point to make our vacations restful. We don’t do much planning, and the most exciting thing on our agendas is usually to visit a museum or go out to dinner. Otherwise, we’re relaxing. Resting. Rejuvenating our minds and spirits.
This is a necessary process. Studied have shown that having a break from work actually makes a worker more productive. And God himself recognized this. In the Law of Moses, we’ve seen how the Lord gave very specific instructions on rest. We have the Sabbath laws. The Sabbath year laws. The Feasts and festivals. All of these are meant to be times when man takes a break from the grind of daily life.
But they’re something else too, aren’t they? They’re also meant to be times when we take a break from normal life…to worship and praise Him.
Let’s look at Matthew 11, specifically at the well known verses 28-30:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus isn’t just talking here about a physical rest, right? He’s talking about rest for our souls.
I want to share another translation, this time from the Message.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
A friend of mine claims this as her favorite verse, so I’ve read it quite a few times. I like how in addition to the words “tired” and “worn out” he also speaks to that spiritual exhaustion—“burned out on religion.” Not on faith, but on religion. On the traditions, the processes, the expectations, the demands. Those can be so exhausting. They, like our jobs, are doing. And sometimes we need a rest from that in the worst way.
I also love the insight into how we’re going to find that, which is kinda an extrapolation of “Come to Me” and “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”
“Get away with me. Walk with me. Work with me. Watch how I do it.”
Wait—maybe this is a bad example after all. What does he say here? Work with me.
Well that doesn’t fit the idea of vacation at all!
But that’s just the Message. If we go back to the New King James, we don’t see that in there, right? It just says “take my yoke upon you.” Well…that doesn’t use the word work, to be sure. But what’s a yoke? It’s something we put on animals…so they can work.
And it goes on with “learn from Me.” Okay, so let’s learn from Jesus. We see him doing plenty of things. Certainly, among them are traveling to observe the holy days—holidays. But even then, what is he doing? Healing the sick. Cleansing the lepers. Casting out demons. Preaching. Teaching.
Working—but not toiling at a 9-5. He’s doing the Father’s work.
So then…is doing the Father’s work…rest?
That’s quite a thought, isn’t it?
Though to be sure, even Jesus had to get away from the crowds. Away from that hands-on work. In those times, we see Him slipping away to pray. To commune with the Father.
As matters of faith often do, this idea of going to Him for our rejuvenation reminds me of my kids.
When my kids are bored, do you know what they do? They come to me. When they’re hungry…they come to me. When they’ve accomplished something they’re proud of…they come to me. When they’re hurt…they come to me. When they’re upset…they come to me. When they're excited...they come to me. When they’re worried…they come to me. When they’re tired…they come to me.
They curl up in my lap. And even though I can’t often do anything, it doesn’t matter. All they want is to know that Mama’s there. They want to curl up in my lap and be my baby. They want to be surrounded by my love. And after a few minutes, they’re refreshed. They’re ready to put aside the exhaustion or the scrape or bruise, the argument or the anger. They’re ready to go back to their game or their project or their work.
For anyone who has read my Culper Series, you'll be familiar with the Puritan prayers I included, taken from Valley of Vision. This is one I used in the second book, which came to mind when I was thinking about this:
“Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to Thee, and love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with Thee, and pant for deliverance from the body of sin, for my heart is wandering and lifeless, and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its beloved. Wrap my life in divine love, and keep me ever desiring Thee, always humble and resigned to Thy will, more fixed on Thyself, that I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.”
Rest. That’s what Jesus offers. But we don’t get it by going away. We don’t get it by stopping what we’re doing. We don’t get it by focusing on us.
We get it by focusing on Him. By crawling up into our Father’s lap. By letting the Spirit act through us.
We don't get it by stopping out work. We get it by doing His work.
And when take our vacation in the lap of our Abba Father, then a few minutes or hours is all it takes. We come back refreshed, ready to do His work--and certainly not in need of another vacation to recover from it.