I have had a somewhat unusual summer. And so far as I’ve taken a little bit of actual vacation time, I actually don’t vacation much. I’ve never been one to enjoy vacation very much. Which isn’t to say I don’t like getting away. I do like the getaway; I like having days off. I like adventure, all that kind of stuff, vacation.
It just has had historically this really odd association to it.
Some of it has to do with childhood stuff, I think. But a lot of it just has to do with the experience I’ve had when taking vacations, and maybe you’re like me in this, that for many, many years, I would be on vacation. And it would I would find it profoundly disappointing or profoundly unsatisfying. And then I’d come home from vacation and feel like I either wasted my time or I felt tired, or I would re-enter my life like something other than refreshed and ready. So the book Sacred Strides actually commits a couple of pages in a chapter to a conversation about vacation and some reflection on our American practice of getting away and taking vacations; I’ve got some criticisms of how we do it. And I won’t read that chapter right now. It’s some stuff we’ll do later on. But part of what I’ve figured out as, as I come to those criticisms has to do with the way I have learned to approach time away, time off, and vacation. So here’s the thing that I recognize, I learned, and part of why I’m enjoying vacation time in the summer. So when I leave for a vacation, when I’m on vacation, I don’t actually like having a plan. That’s not to say I don’t want to know where I’m going; I want to know where I’m going. I want to have a destination for sure. I want to know that I’ve got a place to stay, and there’ll be food to eat, etc. Outside of that, I really like to keep things kind of loosey-goosey and make decisions as I go along to be stuck with, like, here’s the agenda, here’s what time you’re supposed to be there. Here’s what time it’s over like. Like, that’s how I live the rest of my life vacation time away. I really like not having a plan. But the problem with not having a plan is it leaves me open to impulses. And then the question is about the nature of my impulses. And in the past, this was part of my historical pattern. Because I like my work, and I like my job so much that left to do nothing, I’ll just kind of gravitate towards a project or gravitate towards like doing something maybe creatively or even logistically, like that’s my natural impulse, my natural pattern, because I’ve developed that at practice that. And so I’ll spend my quote-unquote vacation time tinkering with ideas and with projects or work stuff that I would actually just be happier doing back home, in my office space where all my stuff’s available to me. So I would live in this tension like, I’m only half here, the impulses, I’m actually giving myself over to find a deeper, more comprehensive fulfillment when I’m at home in my office.
That doesn’t tell me I spent some time over the course of years in the practice of rest, paying attention to those impulses in me; why do I gravitate towards work? Some of it really does have to do with my joy. At work, I actually love what I do. But there was this other thing that I didn’t recognize in me until I started paying attention.
Because an impulse is a momentary explosion of interest or desire, that means that our impulses, which were the way I was thinking about my impulses, have a lot to do with knowing what I want. And in a lot of popular religious culture, all impulse is considered problematic. And sadly, I think that’s because, in a lot of our religious contexts, all desire is painted as problematic. And I had spent very little time in my life, slowing down enough to pay attention to different wants in my life. So I could verify I could acknowledge, and celebrate my desire to make something I want to make good things in the world. That’s a good thing to want to do. But outside of that, I think I was nervous. Actually, no, I was nervous to ask myself, what would you want for yourself? What would feel good to you? If we weren’t doing something productive? We weren’t adding to the bottom line. Maybe you resonate with that, that I just wasn’t trained and paying attention to my own desire to paint and paying attention to the things that I wanted to my soul is even asking for. It’s been in rest and moving away from the normal and very satisfying work patterns that I’ve learned myself as a person.
With desires and interests, it’s been in rest that I’ve had the space to examine and measure the differences between those desires. And those interests, I would be afraid of the desire, in fact, to nap, like it felt guilty like I don’t, I shouldn’t want to nap, lazy people nap, or to enjoy a nicer meal, not like I don’t eat like super expensive stuff, but like, I’m definitely kind of a peanut butter and jelly kind of person most of the days, and so to go out somewhere and actually get a nicer drink and a nicer like, I was afraid to confess to myself that those were things that would actually satisfy my soul in a unique way. See, there are, without question, competing interests and desires in me. And if I don’t give myself space and time to recognize them, and examine them, then I can’t weigh the one versus the other and actually go ahead and choose better desires over lesser ones or even know the metric by which I’m making that decision. And I think this is where cheap religion and deep religion have their most profound difference. In cheap religion, it’s just really simple. You’re a corrupt vessel. And the only good in you is what gets injected into you either by your religion or by a Savior who doesn’t really like you and tells you we’re better than you are already.
In deep religion, there are seeds of desire in you that if you chase them, if you follow them, they will lead you to good places because you were designed good by a loving and Good God, who holds your life together, as it is in a posture of joy, and love. And yes, in fact, desire.
One of the experiences I have come to in vacation time is I get to be met by the same guy that meets me at work. I get to be met in fun, in recreation, and in that big, fat map.
Rest. Far from just being a thing I do between work projects, it is a space in which I get to pay attention to myself and my desires. So that when I separate myself from my life’s normal patterns, I can experience joys I wouldn’t otherwise know.

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