Last year my wife and I took a vacation to a little town in Mexico. We went with nothing but an airplane ticket and a reservation at an Airbnb apartment. Like most people, I was hoping to leave behind all the busyness and stress that comes with my job and everyday life. My spirit was longing for a chance to rest and enjoy myself. I wanted to sit on a beach, with a cold drink and savor the sunrise and sunset, and not be bothered by everything that fights for my attention every other day of the year. It was supposed to be a time to leave behind all my sermon preparation, writing assignments, prayer concerns, Bible study guides, and anything else that resembled work. I didn’t want to read a book on church leadership. I didn’t want to read a book on how to be a better Christian. It was time to take a break from Christian formation.
I wasn’t in a bad place. I wasn’t angry with God. I wasn’t trying to run from God. I wanted to be with God—I just wanted a break from everyday life. Is there a way to keep our spiritual lives alive while leaving our work behind?
It’s hard to separate one’s spiritual life and work when they become intertwined. For example, whenever I opened my journal, I was reminded of all the chores I had been working on as a pastor—my sermon notes, small group ideas, and to-do lists. When I opened my Bible, I was reminded of all the lessons I needed to write. When I prayed, I was consumed by all my prayer concerns. I wanted to find a way to grow more in love with God while on vacation without carrying the everyday weight of being a Christian. I wanted to spend time with God every morning, but I still wanted it to feel like vacation. More than just a break from work, I wanted a break from all the pressure that comes with being a Christian. Maybe you don’t have the problem of intertwining your spiritual life with your work. I wonder though, maybe for other reasons, if you still find it easy to leave God behind while on vacation?
God wants us to take vacations from everyday life, but I don’t believe God wants us to take vacations from his presence.
While it’s important to continually grow and become better people, I also believe God calls us—at times—to rest and enjoy ourselves and not worry about everything we need to be working on. I also believe that during times of rest and fun, God still wants to be a part of our lives. God isn’t only interested in being with us when life is tough or when we have issues we need to work on—God likes us even when we’re having fun.
I began to long for a devotional that would capture this sentiment. I didn’t want something that would give me the next five tasks I needed to work on or teach me some profound truth. I wanted a simple journal free from the burden of everyday life but crafted in a way that I could enjoy the presence of God while I was away. I wanted a journal that helped me realize that God enjoys my vacations as much as I do.
I began to search the scriptures for places where God invited us to times of joy, rest, and fun, and turned these passages into the reflections that you will read. What follows is the devotional I wish I had the last time I was on vacation.