The vacation is one of the finest tools for spiritual leadership development. It allows you to practice being instead of doing—a must for spiritual leaders. The word dates back to the late 14th century, from the French, and means freedom from obligations, leisure, release. But the idea itself goes back to the ancient world: Egyptians, Greeks and Romans traveled for education, entertainment and culture.
Did Jesus vacation? Hard to say for sure, but we know he and his family traveled. Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth for an extended stay while they were both pregnant. Joseph and Mary traveled for the census-taking. After Jesus was born, Joseph shepherded his young family to Egypt for safety. Later, they regularly went up to Jerusalem for the week of Passover—perhaps the closest thing to vacation we can imagine. They probably traveled for the other two pilgrimage-related holidays as well. No doubt these were fun times of family, feasting, and celebration; long-standing ties would have been strengthened and new friendships made. Visiting the Temple itself would have been a religious and cultural highlight.
But whether or not Jesus took an actual vacation as we know it, here are the top 9 reasons you should.
- Vacations give you perspective. Nothing like getting away to help you reflect on where you’ve been. Jesus himself took regular time away from the pressures of leadership. His alone time with God allowed him to get back it with vigor.
- The demands of church life are such that you can stay busy 24/7 and still never get it all done. If you’re one of those who thinks, “As soon as I get it all done, then I’ll take a break,” check out Workaholics Anonymous Book of Recovery for a new perspective. There is no such thing as “done.”
- Vacations allow much needed time with family, friends. Or perhaps, in some cases, away from family and friends! As much as I cherish my family and friends, a few solo trips I have taken stand out as times I grew the most.
- The Sabbath and holidays are not automatic days off for you. In fact, you’re working the hardest on the days others are resting and relaxing. God refrained from what he was doing to rest on the 7th day. Jesus did too. But most of us don’t get to.
- Vacations help you remember you are a human being and not a human doing. Doing, doing, doing can bleed you dry. Simply being with God, yourself, and your loved ones, is soul-satisfying. It helps you remember who you are. And whose you are.
- American vacations in the 18th and 19th centuries often revolved around religious retreats and denominationally oriented “camp meetings.” Take heart in knowing your spiritual forebears took time off. You can too.
- Even if you opt for a “staycation,” a break from the regular routine can bring about new insights and allow you time to think new thoughts. Or perhaps not think at all!
- A vacation can help you cultivate new interests, see new places, and deepen your appreciation for the landscapes, creatures and curiosities of the vast world we live in. Last year, I camped and hiked in an International Dark Sky Park. It wasn’t terribly far from my home, but it was a world away. Reconnecting with the night sky was a gift.
- You may have paid time off coming. Use it or lose it! I know many clergy who have denominationally-mandated yearly continuing education time who don’t take it, access to funding for it who don’t use it, and sabbatical time off every 7 years who never take advantage of it. What a waste!
This summer, I put a vacation reply on my email, left my calendar at home, went to my husband’s family reunion, hiked, read some good books, napped in the sun, poked around in a few places I’ve never been before, and generally did a whole lot of nothing. What a pleasure! In fact, I’m not done vacationing yet. Yes, I’ll be looking forward to being back at it….refreshed and rejuvenated…when the time comes. In the meantime, there’s more nothing to be done.