Dear Immanuel Family & Friends,
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. (Mark 6:30-32)
Speaking of a deserted place . . . while I was writing this article I was in a rustic Inn in Lander, Wyoming. Annie and I spent several days traveling coming and going through some of the most diverse countryside a person could ever experience, from the green, lush trees of Missouri, to the endless grassy plains of Kansas and eastern Colorado, to the mountains, ridges, ravines, and giant sky of Wyoming.
Technically we were on a vacation, although at times it felt more like fulfilling a responsibility toward family. In fact, the primary purpose of our journey was to take Andrew to a wilderness training site in Lander. Still, we were able to "rest a while," just as Jesus did on occasion when the demands and responsibilities of ministry threatened to burn him out faster than a Kansas grassfire.
"Vacation" is a funny word because it shares the same root word as "vacate," "vacant," "vacancy," "vacuum," and "vacuous." At its deepest, it refers to emptiness. When we vacation, we empty ourselves (supposedly) of work responsibilities. A vacant lot refers to an empty lot. A vacancy sign in front of a motel means there are empty rooms available. A vacuum refers to a lack of air. A vacuous mind suggests that someone is empty-headed. Wyoming makes for a good vacation destination because there are a lot of "empty spaces" in the sense of land that is pristine and largely untouched by human enterprise.
Of course, to go on a vacation often requires substantial resources, so not everyone is able to vacate their homes and journey to far-off lands. At the height of the Great Recession in 2008 a new word was invented: "staycation." That word, in the midst of dwindling funds, is not only self-explanatory, it is also a very practical concept.
Nevertheless, if Jesus can be trusted as a reliable role model (and I think he can), it is imperative that human beings find ways to empty their minds and calendars and try to get away on occasion. Due to its insufferable heat, August might not always be the best choice for such an endeavor, but we don't always have a choice in the matter.
There are at least four reason why vacations, no matter how long, no matter how expensive, and no matter how far away one travels, is good for us.
First, it makes us better stewards. Preparing for a vacation often requires much forethought and planning, saving and managing of resources, and optimal use of time. We can then apply the practical things we learn in this regard to more ordinary events in our lives.
Second, vacations can reduce our overall stress level. Notice I said "can" rather than "will," because if our approach to planning and going on a vacation is not accomplished in thoughtful and practical ways then our stress level might actually increase!
Third, vacations can turn us into more creative people because it allows us to slow down and think outside the box. Mother Nature's "deserted places" in particular have a way of helping us to see the bigger picture.
Finally, vacations help to prevent burnout, especially if we have demanding occupations or responsibilities, professional or domestic. Most of us cannot keep doing the same thing, day in and day out for years on end with the same passion and energy we had at the beginning. So, put up the vacuums and plan a vacation, even if only a staycation.