Designed for Rest

I’m back! Yea for sleeping in my own bed without three children in the room! Yea for getting back to writing! But Yea for a wonderful family vacation! We really had such a wonderful time with our kids and as a family. It takes a lot of energy to vacation with three kids, but it really was so worth the effort. I also came home with lots of blog ideas about vacation that I am going to be sharing with you for the next few days. It might help you get some ideas for your vacation, or inspire you to take one, and hopefully it will also help in the financial aftermath that a vacation leaves.

In America, vacation is often viewed as a luxury or an extravagance. I have to admit, it is a little difficult for me to relax and just let myself be on vacation. Especially when it comes to money. However, as I struggled with it, I realized that for the most part I have viewed vacations as frivolous. I don’t think I have ever really sat and thought about what a vacation is worth and the real value behind it. Why do we need a vacation? Is it just a frivolous waste of money?

I found myself thinking about my South African heritage. In South Africa, vacation isn’t a luxury, it is a way of life. School lets out for a month over Christmas and everyone goes on vacation for the month. Yes, a whole month! I remember as a child vacationing beside the ocean for extended periods. I can’t even tell you how rosy and summery those memories are for me! Remember South Africa is in the southern hemisphere so it is summertime at Christmas! My Mom’s two sisters had permanent vacation campground spots reserved for a month each year and they would vacation together with their families for a whole month, camping beside the ocean.

The thought of that in American culture just blows us away. Here we are blessed if we get two weeks of vacation a year. In fact, many Americans who are paid an hourly wage don’t have any paid vacation time at all. And even if our work allows us vacation time, many of us don’t even use it for vacation. We use “vacation” time to paint the house, or do projects, or visit relatives (which I don’t think counts as vacation at all J ) In other words, we make vacation into work or obligation. We just can’t let ourselves have a true break.

So why is vacation valuable? Well, I think it really comes down to the issue of “rest”. Rest is something that is so important that even God “rests”. What a concept! In Genesis it says that after God had created the heavens and the earth and every living thing including mankind, on the seventh day God rested. Why? Why would God rest? Just think about that for a second. God has immeasurable resources, energy. He can do anything. Why would He take time to rest? I know I don’t have the full answer on this one… probably only God does, but I do know that we were made in the image of God. I think part of what was in God’s heart on that seventh day of rest is in ours as well. We need time to sit and enjoy what we have been doing. We need that space to just say, “It is good” and then just appreciate what is going on in our lives, and our hearts. I think the seventh day is also a place where creativity is restored. God put forth so much in creating, and forming, and He took that seventh day just to rest and be refreshed in resting. It is really amazing how creativity is refreshed when we get the rest that we need.

God is spirit, so I think we make the assumption that God doesn’t need to rest… but rest is actually spiritual. Our spirits need to rest. God was demonstrating that even as an unlimited spirit, that the principle of rest is necessary for our spirits. Many people presume that they can go indefinitely and just push and push, but God from the very beginning of time put such an emphasis on the importance of rest that He built it into the very fabric of the structure of time. Every seventh day is for rest… and that doesn’t mean church, it means rest. We have made the “Sabbath day of rest” into a day of extreme fatigue and sacrifice for the church. If your “Sabbath” is spent in labor for church then you have to have a day of true rest. For many of us, we have considered the “Day of Rest” as resting if we were involved in religious activities, but that isn’t rest at all. It is just a different type of labor. You cannot give and give, even to the church (especially to the church!), without rest because you will burn out.

We have seen rest as weakness, or only as a necessity because we have to rest. Yet God placed such a high value on rest that He poured a seventh of His creative energy into a day of rest. He sowed into the fields, He sowed into relationship, and He sowed into rest. We have to get the idea out of our hearts that vacation and rest is only for when we are burned out or desperate for a break. It is actually an essential element of our vitality, our creativity, and our wealth. It is not weakness to rest; it is actually wisdom. If the God of the universe rests, then be assured, we need to too. And if you think about it proportionately, if we spend 6/7ths of our year in work and productivity, then a seventh of our year should be spent in rest. That’s almost eight weeks of vacation a year!! Can you imagine how much more energized you would be to work? How much more connected you would be to your family? The time you might even have for creative outlets? It may seem like a wishful thought to you, but can I just plant a seed in your heart today that vacation is more than just a frivolous use of time and money, it is actually vital to who you are created to be. You may not have eight weeks, but whatever you do have, or have to “budget” to take, vacation and a time of rest are more than just extravagance, more than just the “highlights of childhood”, it is essential to your spirit, your health, and your life. The need for rest is not the result of weakness, it is actually inherent to your very design.

So more on rest tomorrow. As you can tell, I have had a serious change of heart and of mindset as I have contemplated the value of rest in my life. So as you think about this today, ask God for the wisdom to know how to rest and how to make a place for rest and vacation in your life. It may even be time for a new category in your budget. And the truth is, you can afford it because we will always find a way to pay for what we really value. The key is for us to learn to place the same value on rest that our heavenly Father does.