In a recent newspaper essay titled In Defense of the Three-Week Vacation, the writer makes the case for longer American respites from work. Jynne Dilling argues for trips that take us away from cell phone coverage and internet, and urges relaxation that includes reflective walks at dawn and time to get lost in a foreign habitat (New York Times, 9 June 2016).
Many of us have neither the time nor the resources for long overseas sojourns, but all of us can resonate with the need to really “get away” from work or the daily grind or the constant demands of social media. Good stewardship of our bodies, minds and souls obliges us to get away on a regular basis (see Luke 5:16).
As Christian stewards, we aren’t just encouraged but obligated to consider how we approach our stewardship of leisure time.
Stewards are aware of their need to be busy doing God’s work, but often forget that down time is equally important to spiritual growth. Leisure time, whether it’s our evenings, our weekends, or our vacation, provides spiritual, physical, mental and emotional recharging. Leisure is necessary for human wholeness. Leisure reconnects us to the wider mysteries of our world and our God. It helps us daydream, imagine, pray. It refreshes our spirit.
Today, connectivity has become almost an obsession. People check their emails, their messages and calls with alarming repetitiveness. Accidents, both pedestrian and automobile, happen because people can’t put down their phones.
Employers expect their workers to be available for evening emails. The lines between work and free time increasingly blur, as do the lines between solitude and always being present “online.” We can’t imagine putting aside screens for a two-week vacation. But we must give ourselves time to renew and recharge, not just two weeks of the year, but each day and each week.
July offers an opportunity to reconnect with the rhythms of God and nature. We need to take time off from screens and phones, and practice giving undivided attention to the things before us.
When we pray, we commit time and silence. When we enjoy time with our friends and family, we practice being totally present. When we sit on the patio or at the beach, we give ourselves wholly to the wind or the waves. Be a good steward of your body, mind and soul. Don’t overschedule your time off. Listen to the quiet whisper of God encouraging you to relax.