This weekend, our family leaves for our annual trip up to Camp Spofford in New Hampshire (cover picture); it’s a vacation we look forward to each year as it’s my not so humble opinion that New England in the summer is the perfect destination with warm days, cool nights, and fresh water lakes that are actually fresh. If it weren’t for all those terrible sports teams (and fans) that litter the area, I’d say it’s about as close to the 21st century version of the Promised Land as you can get. By the way, on a somewhat-but-not-really related note, can Brady and Belichick retire already? Come on, hang it up and do something else with your life.
Anyways, the banner verse for Camp Spofford is 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” I’m grateful for a Christ-centered place where our family can vacation, but this got me thinking about how we can approach our time away, wherever it may be and for however long it may be, in such a way that our vacation brings glory to His name. Here are three ways.
1. Actually “Be Away” When You Go Away
The nature of going on a vacation is a Biblical one, for God commands that we take a break from the routine of life and rest well. You may think that never taking time off shows others that you’re a hard worker, but it also shows that you’re not a smart worker. Hard work without smart work will lead to no work, just give it some time.
God didn’t rest on the seventh day after six days of creating the world because he was tired, but rather because he sought to model man’s need for rest. This is why He included this command in the law of Moses, to keep a day of rest in memory of the day God rested from his creative work (Exodus 20:8). Rest reminds us that we’re not God, that we need to unplug in order to be effective. Your vacation, then, if seen through the right lens, should be a reminder that God is God and you are not. I heard a speaker once (ironically, at Camp Spofford) who said he and his wife agreed that they were going to rest 1 hour a day, 1 day a week, 1 weekend a quarter, and 1 week a year. This not only helped them recharge, but it was a commitment to break the routine for the purpose of being reminded about God and His work.
So, brothers and sisters, actually be away when you go away. Put the phone down, take email off your phone, unplug. Be present with family and friends in conversation and activity, don’t be physically or emotionally glued to what is going on back home or at work. The goal is to feel rested, so that when you do return from your trip, you can dive back in fully charged. By rest, I don’t mean go sit on a beach and sleep all day (but if that is your thing, by all means), because I actually enjoy being active on my vacations, but rest from the normal ebb and flow of your routine. When you arrive back home, you should feel like you’ve been away, and not just working remotely.
2. Commune with God in Fresh Surroundings
I’m a routine guy, and while I feel like that is a good thing most the time, I admit that it can have its drawbacks. One of the most obvious is that you can fall into the trap of just going through the motions, especially when it comes to our communication with the Lord: reading the Bible (God’s words to us) and prayer (our words to God).
So here’s an added, often underutilized aspect of vacation, it can serve as a spark plug to our communion with the God of the universe. Whether you’re looking over water, up in the mountains, hitting some landmarks out West, or wherever you’re at, the fact is that fresh surroundings can lead to a fresh encounter with God and his Word.
What if we viewed our vacations as not just a time to be restored and charged physically and emotionally, but also spiritually? How careful are you to carve out time on your vacation to get away and get alone with God? Both my experience and the experience I’ve heard from others is that some of the most transformative thinking and decision making occurs when we’re “away”, because I believe the encounters with the same God in different surroundings stirs our minds and hearts in ways that they never would while at home.
3. Be a Witness and Encouragement to Someone New
In general, vacations mean you’ll have interactions with new people, or at the very least people you don’t normally see throughout the year. While going away means you get away from the routine of life, it doesn’t mean you get away from the mission of your life. Each believer plays a role in living out the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Wherever you go away, no matter how remote or off the beaten path, Jesus will be with you, and therefore will equip you to be a witness to those that are on the same, off-beaten path.
While you ought to let your hair down on vacation, be sure to keep your spiritual antenna up. Who can you be an encouragement to? Who can benefit from hearing a bit of your story of how God rescued you and claimed you for Himself, to his glory and our joy? Perhaps you can offer to pray for someone after getting to hear a bit of their story, or just be an intentional, present, listening ear to someone who needs it and didn’t expect to get it.
Often times, you’ll never see these people again, and yet, if we steward the call to be witnesses well, it could be an encounter that someone else never forgets. And, as it tends to be the case, when you seek to be an encouragement or witness to someone else, you end up being the one encouraged or witnessed to in return. God is funny that way.
Be grateful that you have the time and means to “get away”, even if it’s just for a day or a weekend, but be mindful of how you glorify God on your vacation. It will provide depth and meaning to your trip that you otherwise would never get to experience. Go get ‘em, and we’ll see you when you get back.