I spent last week traveling and relaxing with my family. It was a classic summer vacation with beaches, interstate rest stop picnics, and
peculiar road sign sightings.
Should I have used the additional down time and scenic locales for more intentional spiritual exercises and thought? What should my spiritual life do while my vocational life is on retreat? I made the decision to let my week off be a week off from my usual routine of spiritual growth and training. I slept in instead of getting up early to read my Bible, I brought along a book that I knew was heavy on story and lighter on spiritual seriousness, and I let myself soak in the moment instead of planning my every move. Am I a slacker? Did I give the Devil a foothold?
I don’t think so. I remember Richard Foster telling a story once about listening to prayer expert Agnes Sanford talk about her love of reading murder mysteries. She encouraged her listeners and readers to be serious about prayer but then take a break and do something you enjoy. The point is to find balance in your life and vacations are designed to bring balance. Spiritual vacations can have the same effect.
I don’t want to suggest that we should all become less devoted, but just as our bodies and minds need breaks from work, our spirit needs a break from its training as well. As I returned to work this week I have had a renewed energy and have been able to focus on the tasks at hand. I seem to be, for the time being at least, less easily distracted and more aware of what really matters. The same is true with my spiritual life. When I opened my Bible today, I realized how much I missed reading it and I sought out a deeper connection with God through it.
If you have been pushing hard through spiritual disciplines or intense studies, give yourself a break and let your life flow for a time. Take up your practices again soon and you will find that they have a more meaningful effect.
It may be time for a spiritual vacation.