The following blog was written by Sam Parnell, our House Church and Discipleship Pastor. He shares some insight to how we might approach vacation in a way that leads to spiritual growth and increased closeness with God...instead of just escaping responsibility, vacationing, and then dreading the return to the real world! We hope this blog blesses you and sets you up for a new kind of vacation!
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The last day of vacation is the worst! Or at least they used to be. My wife, Kristina, and I have been traveling together a couple of times a year since we got married in 2005. A few years ago I began to notice a cycle of emotion that happened throughout our vacations. The days leading up to vacation were always filled with anticipation and excitement. Days 1-4 were a utopia of sand between our toes, hiking adventures, and experiential gluttony. However, Day 5 turned to an indescribable internal conflict that seemed to give way to days 6-7’s pure agony over the idea of returning to reality and the stress of the responsibility we tried to forget existed.
Over the years, I attempted to change this pattern of emotion. I created ingenious ideas like extending vacations by an extra couple of nights, seeking the best restaurants along the drive home, or planning our next get-a-way before returning to work so I could begin counting down the days to our next moment of relaxation and adventure.
None of the these strategies really made a difference. My vacation blues at times were delayed but never resolved until I acknowledged that I wasn’t traveling with the One who designed rest. I believe God’s desire is to vacation with us, not to wait for us to call upon Him when returning home.
There is a passage in Exodus 34:21-23 that God used to shift my approach to vacation:
“You are to labor six days but you must rest on the seventh; you must even rest during plowing and harvesting times. Observe the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the agricultural year. Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory. No one will covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God.”
There is a lot going on for Moses and the Israelites in this passage, but I would like to focus on two practical aspects of the time set aside to be with God:
1. SET ASIDE TIME FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF HEARING FROM GOD
Moses was instructed to lead the Israelite men away to hear from God three times a year even in the busiest seasons. (*don’t worry women I am not advocating for men-only vacations). Think about this. Three times a year the men would leave their responsibilities to hear from God. In this passage, the Israelites prioritized time with God, believed God would provide even after giving their first fruits, and trusted Him to use this time away to bring clarity to their covenant with Him.
2. WHILE AWAY, SEEK GOD IN SPECIFIC WAYS
The names for God in this passage reveal the ways in which Moses and the men related to God during these meetings with God.
A. God (or Elohim) — This is a reference to God as the all powerful Creator of all things. This is the same name for God used in Genesis 1:1.
B. LORD (or Jehovah) — This is a reference to God as someone who cares for His people and seeks relationship with them.
C. Lord God (or Adonai) — This is a reference to God as the ultimate Master who wants to invite His people into His plans
Exodus 34 challenged me to rest with God in a similar way. What if I vacationed for the purpose of resting to hear from God? And what if I listened to God as the Creator of all the things around me, as the God who longs to spend time with me, and as my Master who wants to share His plans for me as I go back home? As you vacation this summer, consider these practical ways to relate to God as Creator, Father, and Guide for your life.
1. GOD AS CREATOR
The Bible begins with the beauty of the created world. So often vacations are planned around seeing God’s craftsmanship in natural wonders. Many of you are going to national parks, beaches, or simply traveling through areas you don’t see regularly. Ask God to reveal the magnificence of His creation to you. Look for the big and small things that awe you (i.e. sunrise, sunset, mountains, animals, colors, sounds, smells, etc.). Take the time to journal and/or discuss with those you are traveling with as you discover the beauty of God’s creation.
2. GOD AS FATHER
Journal and/or discuss the blessings God has given you both on vacation each day as well as the those at home that you recall throughout the week. What are the things that make vacation wonderful (i.e. relationship, creation, ice cream, etc.) and the things that are blessings of your home (i.e. relationships, material provisions, opportunities. etc.)? Make a list of things God has done for you. Sometimes our pace of life distracts us from recognizing His goodness so vacation is the perfect time to slow down and remember the gifts of the Father.
3. GOD AS MASTER
Finally, take some time to be alone with God. Shut off your cell phone, the TV, and any other personal technology to take a walk or sit with the Lord. Get up early (or stay up late) to find solitude away from even the people you traveled with to spend time with God. Allow God to speak into your identity through these passages:
- You are God’s Child, John 1:12
- You have the Peace of God, Romans 5:1
- You are free from condemnation, Romans 8:1
- You are alive with Jesus, Colossians 2:13
- You cannot be separated from God’s love, Romans 8:38-39
- You are positioned with Jesus, Ephesians 2:4,6
- Jesus is your life, Colossians 3:4
- You are being transformed into His image, 2 Corinthians 3:18
Meditate on these truths in scripture for your life. Ask God to reveal His plan for you when you return home in light of these truths: "God, how do you want me to walk in your plans when I return home?" Be silent. Wait. Listen for God to speak to you.
Journal and/or discuss your thoughts.
The adventures of the beach, the mountains, and even Disney World are more fun and fulfilling with Jesus. Our time away is never to be in isolation from God, rather it was designed to be with Him. Over the past couple of years as Kristina and I shifted our approach to vacation, we anticipate vacation with more excitement, enjoy relationship and recreation more, and return home with greater purpose. We are still learning; however, we have seen vacations become a time of year to enjoy the peace of going with God, to relax and rest with Him and one another for the purpose of coming home more connected to Him and with increased clarity of what our next faithful steps should be.
May God bless your travels this summer!
***Note: The practical spiritual disciplines are edited from James Bryan Smith’s book The Good and Beautiful God.