I just got back from vacation. Here are the highlights: I got up in the morning with my daughter and we jumped in the swimming pool together. I took a nap alongside my wife in the afternoons. I got to sit on a breezy porch and read “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Palahniuk while drinking a beer for at least 30 minutes everyday. I went to bed at 10.
Last night I went to bed at midnight (thanks, Olympics . . .). I got up early this morning and skipped the gym to catch up on email for 40 minutes before talking to my mentor about church stuff. I still have 75 to go until “inbox zero” from the over 350 I started with this week. I blew distant kisses to my daughter and wife as they walked out of the door because I was still on the phone and they needed to go someplace. “Invisible Monsters” has been sitting patiently on the bar in our den, unread since vacation ended. My planner is telling me I still have about 43 hours of estimated “task time” to accomplish this week, and that’s before I remembered I needed to write a newsletter article.
Are those two paragraphs above written by the same guy? If not, which guy is more “spiritual”? Which guy just spoke at our National Youth Gathering on the topic of “Relax and Be a Christian”? Those are questions I’ve been asking for more than just the past two weeks.
Realistically, neither of those “guys” in the paragraphs above are any more spiritual than the other. But don’t we want the answer to be different? Don’t we want the guy who splashes in the pool with his daughter and naps with his wife – enjoying what seems to be heaven on earth . . . don’t we sort of want THAT to be the “spiritual guy”? Or maybe we don’t. Maybe we want the “spiritual guy” to be the dude who gets up early to answer emails, you know, for the sake of the kingdom and all that. But they both fall short of the mark. They both need Jesus if they’re going to be spiritual, they need His Spirit, His wholeness – because by themselves, they are both incomplete.
They need the Jesus who fell asleep in the stern of the boat, who laughed with His disciples’ jokes (because you know Peter had some awful jokes). AND they need the Jesus who got to work, who understood mission and achievement, who eventually took on a job so rigorous that only the Son of God could complete it. That’s who we all need. We need Him on our vacations, and we need Him in our vOcations.
There’s something to the wisdom to which God calls us. A big part of His wisdom has to do with how we work, and how we rest. It has to do with how we live our everyday, or as the Psalmist says, “your going out and your coming in” (Ps 128).
I’m finishing reading a book right now about some of that wisdom and how it is located in some of the ancient practices and spiritual disciples of the church of yesteryear (Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton). One of those practices is called a daily examen. It’s a simple process of reflection; seeing the good and the not so good, and in the midst of the contrast finding Jesus’s presence – forgiving, renewing, and leading.
My examen question for myself this week is asking myself where I feel tired and where I feel refreshed, and then meditating and praying about where Jesus is found in the midst of the contrast. Both are good, because both were experienced by Jesus. He redeemed our rested and refreshed feelings – He redeemed our vacations, our Sabbath times. AND He redeemed those moments where we fall exhausted into bed after a hard day of our vocation, our mission times.
Yet far too often, we fall to one side or the other, thinking that “this is the spiritual thing”. For me personally, I fall into the trap of being too busy most of the time. It even feels weird to write that. But the hardest “work” that I’ve done lately is trying to figure out how to rest, and how to find God in that rest. But the good news is that I CAN find God in my work, as can you – it is a “spiritual thing” when we type on our keyboards, talk to people on the phone, have meetings, change diapers, do homework. And if I can find Him in that work, then I have hope that I can find Him in my rest as well.