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A Holy Vacation

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
July 25, 2019

A Forbes article in May 2018 entitled “Why America Has Become the No-Vacation Nation,” said that  47% of us did not take all of our vacation in 2017, and 21% of us “left more than five vacation days on the table.”  The article concluded that, as a nation, we are becoming “vacation-phobic.”*

I am about to go on my summer break.  Apparently, I am an outlier in this American trend towards vacation phobia, because I plan to take all the vacation I am allotted before year’s end.  And I do so, not just because my contract gives me this benefit, but for what I hope is a “holy” reason.  I need a break to break myself of an unholy attitude.

The life-giving Commandments that God gave our ancestors on Mt. Sinai call for a weekly sabbath, a time of rest, re-creation, and breathing deeply into the holy wisdom of “letting go and letting God.”  The older I get, the clearer it becomes to me that I need such a weekly sabbath, as well as the longer sabbath of vacation, because I am in the grip of an overweening attachment – even addiction – to work.  Although I try to soften my attachment by reframing it as a “desire to be useful,” the fact remains that I have become trapped in an unholy pattern of living that does violence** to who I really am.  I keep defining my worth in terms of work and my accomplishments.  Practicing sabbath – whether weekly or in the more extended rest of vacation – reminds me that I am valuable not because I do, but simply because I am – made in the image and likeness of the God whose Name is “I AM.”

During my upcoming vacation, I want to attempt one very particular pathway into sabbath, a holy detachment from the illusion that I matter because I am busy “doing.”  Between 9 and 5 every day, I will put away my cell phone, in the hope that I can let go of the many ways I try to prove to myself, to others, and to God that I am worthwhile because I am staying connected to others and their needs through Facebook, emails, and texts. 

I am under no illusion that this will be easy, given that I look at my cell phone several times each hour. But my prayer will be: “God, help me to trust that You can take care of things better than I can during these 8 hours.”  Perhaps you will pray that with me?  Who knows, perhaps if you do, you will find yourself wanting to try out some form of sabbath on your vacation – for your own good, and the glory of the God who made you to be, and not just to do.

Peace and blessings in Christ,

The Rev. William W. Rich



*Victor Lipman, Forbes, May 21, 2018

**Thomas Merton, the wise, social activist Trappist monk of the 20th century, said that perhaps the most pervasive form of violence in our day is “activism and overwork.” 


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